This article has been published as part of the Agora series, the New Statesman's philosophy column.
People often give a personal explanation of whether they protect the privacy of their data. Those who don’t care much about privacy might say that they have nothing to hide. Those who do worry about it might say that keeping their personal data safe protects them from being harmed by hackers or unscrupulous companies. Both positions assume that caring about and protecting one’s privacy is a personal matter. This is a common misunderstanding.
It’s easy to assume that because some data is “personal”, protecting it is a private matter. But privacy is both a personal and a collective affair, because data is rarely used on an individual basis.