It’s getting easier to be a vegetarian but (1) it’s still not easy and (2) people end up selling you a lot of expensive junk food. It should be cheaper and somehow it isn’t.

I remember how it was in the early 00s when the only thing on the menu would be pasta with 800 calories of cheese. Now restaurants get it a little more and there are more products for grocery stores to stock. There was a moment when ‘veggie burger’ went from ‘dissolving hill of beans’ to actual thing. Quorn entered the american market, despite an iffy launch in europe.

My cousin still believes that I did it to give my mom a hard time.

Privacy is the same way

Privacy, and to an extent sane security practices, is kind of similar. You have to say no to a lot of things that people do sort of on your behalf.

For example, invitations. The first few times I got a linkedin invitation after college I sent back a personal response being like ‘sorry, I don’t have one of these accounts, and also you shouldn’t put people’s email into strange websites’. Oh how naive. Eventually a friend was like ‘no, I didn’t give them your email address, I gave them my email password.’

Having what I consider to be baseline sane privacy attitudes means politely declining a lot of gift-like gestures that in fact offend you.

Also ad blockers. Websites want to make out like I’m stealing from them. Dear internet: I’d love to pay you 50 cents for you content + not having my identity sold. You’re the one who’s stealing from me. These days I have javascript off, most news sources work, and the web works better without it. The interactive web is mostly used to my detriment (with some important exceptions). My browser is safer, faster and crashes less. Pages load better without JS on shitty frontends like techcrunch. I use less bandwidth and things don’t jump around as I’m scrolling / clicking / looking.

‘I wish you hadn’t given my email address to facebook’ is a hard conversation to have with a person. It shouldn’t be a hard conversation to have with a business but of course it is. Despite how the 1940s went down, no legislature recognizes ‘putting people on lists’ as a form of harm.


We’re in the phase where laypeople comprehend digital privacy as a lifestyle choice, respect your choice and are willing to work with you on it, and may have dabbled themselves. But sneakers are still made of animal glue and don’t see the need to disclose it.

As with other major things about the way you live, sometimes people try to talk you out of it. ‘You can’t really make a dent so stop making life difficult for yourself’. Sometimes you cheat on your rules or make compromises to make a situation easier. Sometimes you stick to your guns at a time or place that makes life kind of hard – like asking a bouncer who they share their digital driver’s license scans with, and then physically pulling the card back when I didn’t like the answer. Like various worse interactions with the TSA because I don’t understand the rules for their search of travelers.

My point is that while a lot of people know about wanting to control your information, relatively few people understand and are able to put up with your crap and businesses vary in their ability to tolerate or accommodate this kind of thing.


You get to a point where you remember that this is important and that it’s one of your core values but you don’t remember the reasons. Because everyone around you is living in a different way and seems to be succeeding. There are even now a lot of ‘what’s the harm, really’ conversations both in person and in the wider community online.

The harm, of course, is that every entity that has private information about you will use it to the greatest extent possible, and mostly in private. Personalization technology may be an exception to this but (1) I can’t think of a case where data-based personalization has helped me (vs settings-based), and (2) the same technology has built the annoying and trashified ad-driven internet. But the harms are mostly secret: price discrimination. Parallel construction of criminal cases uses NSA data. The suspicion that you’re seeing ads based on your conversation; things that are hard to verify.

Legislatures are starting to regulate consumer privacy but still haven’t written the harm into law, meaning that I can’t sue. Perhaps this is just incompetence, but maybe they recognize that it’s hard to prove that you’ve been stolen from in this space or hurt by it. Perhaps they believe that a consumer body that allowed facebook to get to a billion users is incapable of defending themselves with lawsuits. I don’t agree but I get their point. Maybe facebook got to them and said ‘give us whatever regulation you want but don’t give people the power to sue – you’ll look good and we’ll survive’.

What’s next

I read some ‘2020 predictions bingo card’ and one of the topics that appeared in a few articles was consumer privacy tools. I’m not sure what this looks like – I think the solution is ‘you sold / gave away my data, you now go to jail’, but that’s a long road from where we are.

In the meantime, veggie burgers cost the same amount as real ones and while I sense this doesn’t make sense (cows eat plants, after all), I’m kind of okay paying the difference – paying up for veggie burgers is a vote for more veggie options on more menus.

I’m not sure what that means in the privacy space but whoever you are, if I’m on the market for your product I’m more likely to buy it if there’s a privacy-friendly option. I might even pay up.