The weaponization of privacy

  • by Osano Staff
  • · posted on March 24, 2022
  • · 3 min read
The weaponization of privacy

Today’s Privacy Insider comes to you from John Allman, our Senior Success Engineer.


In 2014, I joined the International Association of Privacy Professionals as an IT Security Professional tasked with operationalizing security and privacy programs across the organization. As anyone would expect given my role at the IAPP and subsequently, at Osano, I follow trends in the quickly evolving privacy landscape and for the most part, it hasn’t given me much to talk about at dinner parties.

Recently, however, a trend I did not foresee has emerged that I find quite fascinating — and alarming; a trend I personally refer to as the “weaponization of privacy.” Specific examples include Amazon adding code to its digital properties to block FLoC from tracking visitors using Google’s Chrome browser, Apple implementing privacy controls to take out Facebook (while significantly increasing ad revenue), inter alia.

Despite the feel-good marketing spin, to many privacy insiders who watch what these companies are doing closely, the rise of “weaponizing privacy” is a reminder that — even in the face of public outcry and a dramatic increase in privacy regulations springing up — “privacy” is still viewed as just another circumstance that can be leveraged to gain an advantage in a game where the goal is, and always will be, to enrich a very, very small group of individuals.

But this unwillingness or inability by key leaders to do what needs to be done does not mean the pursuit of an ideal state by privacy professionals is tantamount to plowing sand. Quite the contrary. What this means is, it is now more important than ever that privacy professionals, marketers, and the development community step up and force the change that needs to happen.

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Privacy is not just about providing users with a shorter privacy policy or ensuring consents are collected in alignment with the letter of the law. Privacy is foundational to who we are as human beings and our ability to learn, grow, and evolve. It is the only mechanism by which we can define our relationships with the influences of the world and those who fear the development of our autonomy; and most importantly it gives every human being the space required to be ourselves, pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as we define it, and allows us to think freely without discrimination. It gives us the freedom of autonomy, in both thought and action, without which, we will never realize who we truly are for ourselves.

Privacy is deserving of the highest regard. But it is still not the default, and there is still much left to do by every member of the privacy community.

When others (motivated by competing priorities) challenge you, attempt to circumvent you, or outright ignore you, I argue that you have a responsibility to push back, and stand up for what is right…not just that which is technically “legal”; which are not the same and this makes it hard. But truly preserving privacy will not be easy, but that is how you know it is worth doing.

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About The Author · Osano Staff

The Osano staff is a diverse team of free thinkers who enjoy working as part of a distributed team with the common goal of working to make a more transparent internet. Occasionally, the team writes under the pen name of our mascot, “Penny, the Privacy Pro.”