This last post of the semester is in response to Brendan’s “Some thoughts on Privacy and Data”.
The first thing that came to mind when reading his post, was the concept of ‘victim blaming’: “the attempt to escape responsibility by placing the blame for the crime or other abuse at the hands of the victim” as defined by rationalwiki.org.
As Brendan himself says ” might come off as callous regarding some matters where people’s private information has been exposed …in that my initial response toward such breaches of security is generally to say ‘well, if they didn’t want X information to be distributed, why did they put it in vulnerable places in the first place?’ and to be honest, I could not come up with a better example of victim blaming myself. To me personally it is very reminiscent of the “well if you didn’t want to get raped, you shouldn’t have been wearing that” approach that rape victims get blamed with so often. Luckily, he goes on to say “certainly would not condone the theft, misuse, or distribution of anyone’s anything, no matter what the motivations of the thief may be.” which at least recognizes that this misuse is not the victim’s fault (so fortunately we can still stay friends 😉 )
Psychology Today had a very interesting article on victim blaming – which can be found here – that mentions how victim blaming is not only used to divert the blame away from the actual perpetrator, but as a way to explain why bad things happen to good people. I feel like this can also be said for privacy breaches, when good people get hacked and their privacy gets invaded, it’s because they didn’t look hard enough for safer options, and it’s – in part – their fault.
Now I do agree that our technology definitely isn’t safe, and our online data is full of security holes and bugs. But you can’t blame someone for putting their information (which often is required and not optional) on unsafe technology, all technology is by definition hackable and not secure. As long as there is no better alternative, there’s no point in blaming the victim for what happened. I believe that, rather than saying they should not have put it in a vulnerable place in the first place, we should only blame the ones who actually broke the law to get to this information, and work towards ever more secure technology. We can’t expect every technology user to be well versed in cyber security, now can we? Or expect everyone to hide all of their possibly sensitive data from prying eyes, which is becoming and increasingly more difficult feat? If this is the way we should all handle our data, then I believe we’ll all turn into security obsessed hermits.
I also agree that there’s no point in acting surprised when a security breach does happen (we’re all aware that this can happen at any moment), but reacting with dissapointment and anger seems like the proper reaction to illegal activity of any kind.