The Guardian: ‘Our data is our digital identity – and we need to reclaim control’ by Cullen Hoback


I’m a film-maker by trade, so heading to Capitol Hill the other week was a new experience for me. I was there to talk privacy, and in essence, to advocate. I didn’t have the first clue where to begin. The architecture, both impressive and oppressive, made me feel simultaneously important and meagre, and as I was later told, this was intentional.

For the past month we have accrued about 20,000 signatures at our site, from people who want their Congressmen to see my film about digital privacy: Terms and Conditions May Apply.

I had a feeling a lot of people on the Hill didn’t really understand how privacy has been eroded through the digital corporate/government alliance. It’s not because these Representatives are dummies, it’s because the unholy alliance of the surveillance-industrial complex is just that: complex.

Everything in our digital lives now comes with this legally binding contract, a contract designed to take away fundamental rights. And with 30 or more pages of undecipherable legalese at many sites, how is anyone supposed to understand the nature of the trade for digital services?

These contracts had largely evolved after the Patriot Act, designed to take as much from the user as possible, while simultaneously protecting the company from any and all legal recourse. Who was bargaining on behalf of the user? I suppose I had made a film, and I was now in Washington to change that.