Protecting privacy is all about critical living

I attended the Big Brother Award event organised by Bits of Freedom in Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. Three prizes were announced, some bands and poets and talks by Hans de Zwart of Bits of Freedom, Aral Balkan and Edward Snowden in a Google Hangout.

Often the rhetoric in these contexts focuses on privacy. Also this night, but it was good to see that the main concept of freedom was more important after all. Privacy is ‘just’ a mean to leverage the freedom of living we need.

This freedom thinking is more and more important, and more and more linked to our own actions. Aral Balkan is able as no other to preach the ‘we are the product’-story. His focus is Google mainly, as the main representative of the tech companies that have build their business models fully on data. Data is eating the world, also in the new wave of things that are being connected, it all comes back to the data in the end. We as humans are a lab rat mainly. In all we do.

It is a well known concept Aral is telling. His hope pyramid boils down the mission: respect human values. It is definitely important. The winner of the public prize – Ivo Opstelten – showed how little respect the government has by making it into a joke.

You could debate what is more harmful, big companies building their business on data models or governments that define your rights based on making you a suspect by default. The latter probably, but the cynical thing is that governments are standing on the shoulders of big companies to gather the necessary data. That is what the Snowden affair made clear to everyone.

The price for Edward Snowden was more than well deserved. He may not be the great visionair as he says, but he is a classical hero that did what others would not do: stand up on a personal level. This was the main message of his words and also the main message of the night.

As Hans de Zwart in his talk emphasized that diversity is important. We need the space to experiment, to make mistakes. That is what freedom is for. We should strive for personal freedom and we are in the end the only ones that can start this freedom are we ourself. Building walls is not enough, we should learn to act on a critical living.


Published by


I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s