Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


10:30 AM
Reg Harnish
Reg Harnish
Connect Directly
E-Mail vvv

4 Benefits of a World with Less Privacy

The privacy issue is a problem for a lot of people. I see it differently.

I recently joined the Delete Facebook movement, but not because I thought removing my account would restore my online privacy.

I was ready to move on.

The truth is, the Internet knows the same about me today as it did when I was a member of the world's largest social network. Whether or not I deleted my account is irrelevant to the state of my online privacy. There will still be a "Reg Harnish" shadow profile on the platform with thousands of pages of data. My profile will continue to grow as long as my friends and family continue to post photos and information about me — and as long as Facebook follows its practice of monitoring user behavior across the Internet via partner sites and ads.

My digital footprint isn't going anywhere. That is, unless I decide to drop off the grid for the rest of my life; but, even then, my information still would be available, just buried beneath a sea of data.

The privacy issue is a problem for a lot of people. I see it differently. In fact, I believe society could benefit from a little less privacy. I'm certainly not advocating for the death of privacy. I tend to side with those who argue that privacy is an intrinsic value that shouldn't be treated as a dispensable commodity. It is essential for self-development and, without some level of privacy, we would all lose our individuality and conform to one another.

With that said, here are four benefits of a world with less privacy:

Convenience: For the past 3,000 years, cultures commonly prioritized convenience and wealth over privacy. Internal walls in homes didn't exist until 1500 A.D., with the development of the brick chimney, which needed support beams that ultimately segmented the home's interior space. Before the 1700s, most homes had only one bed because they were too expensive to build.

Even today, just about every American has already unwittingly opted out of privacy for the convenience of surfing the web, monitoring their physical activity with fitness trackers, or receiving digital discounts at the grocery store, among many other online activities.

By devoting so much of our time online or opting in to terms and conditions, we have allowed third-parties not only to create digital copies of ourselves but also to predict our behaviors before we, ourselves, even know how we will behave. Taken to the next level, we could experience a new degree of convenience that rivals some of the best sci-fi films ever created. Already we are experiencing a degree of high-tech convenience that our forefathers could scarcely have imagined. Plus, with the recent push toward artificial intelligence and machine learning, computers may learn to guide us toward better decisions for our health, relationships, and lifestyles.

Reduced cybercrime: The simple fact that we place value on our privacy makes it worth stealing. For instance, Social Security numbers (SSNs) were never meant to be more than a way for tracking the earnings histories of workers in the US. Nowadays, you can't do anything without providing that number for verification. What was once a worthless nine-digit number now can be used to open a bank account in someone else's name, receive their benefits, and ultimately steal their identity.

The minute we stop using our SSNs as a form of ID, criminals would no longer be interested in stealing that information because it would be worthless. The same goes for all information. Of course, some degree of privacy is essential for maintaining national security and financial stability. But that doesn't mean we should be assigning false value to outdated forms of identification. Just like our SSNs, if other information such as corporate databases, National Security Agency (NSA) records, and the security cameras that monitor our city streets were made public, criminals would be less likely to steal it because that information would be worthless on the market.

Live longer: Tailored advertisements and discounts showing up on your social feeds are just a couple of the many benefits of sharing personal information. Pulling back the curtain of privacy could save lives, too. Right now, our medical data is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but many people don't realize that their health data could be the missing link preventing the next big breakthrough in medicine. If we shared our medical data freely, imagine the amount of data that medical providers, entrepreneurs, and companies could harness in the name of research. New medical treatments and cures would be discovered, perhaps, at unprecedented rates, not only saving lives but allowing humans to live longer.

Take the deadly drug Vioxx, for example. Researchers reported in a 2013 Iowa Law Review article that if patients who took the deadly drug had shared their health information publicly, statistics could have detected the side effects much earlier, possibly saving as many as 25,000 lives.

Transparency: Most people don't think about how often their image is captured on a given day. For instance, the average American is photographed roughly 15 times during their drive to the supermarket. On that same trip, they'll typically appear on about 90 seconds of video without ever knowing about it. The calls and texts they made on the way will also be monitored. The metadata will be sent instantly to databases around the globe and into the cloud, where it will be immediately, most likely, available to a select few. Our smartphones are broadcasting our exact locations at every moment, possibly sending the information to governments around the world, certainly to the NSA and to many others of which we are not aware.

But why should that information be limited to only a few? If we stopped demonizing the sharing of data, perhaps our information might be treated more democratically, as it was in simpler times when transparency was a common thread among villages and towns. Community members shared everything with each other. Everyone knew everything about you. Your favorite color and food. What made you laugh. Your kids' names. Now we guard that information because we are so afraid someone is going to use it against us.

Having large sums of data and metadata in the hands of only a few, allowing them to dictate the flow of information, could set the stage for societal peril. Once information flows freely, governments will be forced to follow suit with transparency.

Privacy as we know it will never return to pre-Internet times. Instead of looking backward, let's look forward and embrace a world where less privacy may be a good thing.

Related Content:


Black Hat Europe returns to London Dec 3-6 2018  with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Reg Harnish is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO of GreyCastle Security, a leading cybersecurity firm headquartered in Troy, New York. With two decades of experience practicing cybersecurity, Reg brings a thought-provoking perspective to the industry which has earned ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Strategist
8/31/2018 | 1:39:02 PM
Re: Less Privacy is Good?-NOT
I consider myself similarly optimistic. However my optimism springs from the good sense of the electorate.  We seem, here in the US to stagger between twin abysses of facism and socialism. We walk a zig zag path like a drunken man, often coming right up to the edge of one or the other of these chasms, taking a careful view over the edge... then staggering back away. 


we elected Senator McCarthy, then consigned him to oblivion when he accused, of all groups, the US Army of unAmerican activity.  We allowed Lyndon Johnson to start a fruitless $20 Trillion (yes, that's trillion with a "T") war on poverty, but when democrats promised "Just a few more taxes, a couple of trillion more dollars, and honest, it will start working, it'll be GREAT!" we elected Trump. On the one side, we said no to Facism and conformity, and on the other, we said no to socialism. 

So because of our collective record on government and governance, I am an optimist. I think we will let the NSA, FBI, IRS, and CIA all know to butt out pretty soon because the have gone too far. 


Dan Sichel
User Rank: Author
8/31/2018 | 9:56:41 AM
Re: Less Privacy is Good?-NOT
I tend to be more of a "glass half full" kinda guy. :)
User Rank: Strategist
8/31/2018 | 9:48:59 AM
Less Privacy is Good?-NOT
All we have to do to reduce cybercrime is surrender our privacy....  said every tyrant ever!


While we are at it, let's give the government DNA and blood samples universally, just so they can catch the criminals. Because how could that be abused?

I am sorry, but after the recent showing of the FBI abusing FISA courts, after 7000 or so years of written human history, I cannot fathom how anyone could think that less privacy and security of your own person could be in ANY way beneficial.


Dan Sichel
Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
8/30/2018 | 2:05:04 PM
Re: Confusion
Thanks for catching that typo! It's been fixed in the text.
User Rank: Strategist
8/30/2018 | 1:20:58 PM

Title: 4 Benefits of a World with Less Privacy

Content: With that said, here are three benefits of a world with less privacy:...

Actual content: "4 things I do not really understand but from a high level it sounds good."

COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/25/2020
Hacking Yourself: Marie Moe and Pacemaker Security
Gary McGraw Ph.D., Co-founder Berryville Institute of Machine Learning,  9/21/2020
Startup Aims to Map and Track All the IT and Security Things
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-25
In tensorflow-lite before versions 1.15.4, 2.0.3, 2.1.2, 2.2.1 and 2.3.1, when determining the common dimension size of two tensors, TFLite uses a `DCHECK` which is no-op outside of debug compilation modes. Since the function always returns the dimension of the first tensor, malicious attackers can ...
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-25
In tensorflow-lite before versions 1.15.4, 2.0.3, 2.1.2, 2.2.1 and 2.3.1, a crafted TFLite model can force a node to have as input a tensor backed by a `nullptr` buffer. This can be achieved by changing a buffer index in the flatbuffer serialization to convert a read-only tensor to a read-write one....
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-25
In tensorflow-lite before versions 1.15.4, 2.0.3, 2.1.2, 2.2.1 and 2.3.1, if a TFLite saved model uses the same tensor as both input and output of an operator, then, depending on the operator, we can observe a segmentation fault or just memory corruption. We have patched the issue in d58c96946b and ...
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-25
In TensorFlow Lite before versions 1.15.4, 2.0.3, 2.1.2, 2.2.1 and 2.3.1, saved models in the flatbuffer format use a double indexing scheme: a model has a set of subgraphs, each subgraph has a set of operators and each operator has a set of input/output tensors. The flatbuffer format uses indices f...
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-25
In TensorFlow Lite before versions 2.2.1 and 2.3.1, models using segment sum can trigger writes outside of bounds of heap allocated buffers by inserting negative elements in the segment ids tensor. Users having access to `segment_ids_data` can alter `output_index` and then write to outside of `outpu...