Laziness at the expense of privacy and freedom: John McAfee

Summary:John McAfee, founder of the antivirus software company that bears his name, has called out laziness and the likes of Google as two of the contributing factors to the "eroded nature of privacy in our lives today".

Computer antivirus software developer John McAfee made a surprise appearance at the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas over the weekend, where he spoke about the "eroded nature of privacy in our lives today".

McAfee, founder of the antivirus software company that bears his name, singled out search giant Google, along with laziness, as being two of the primary contributors to what he referred to as an "intrusion into our lives". 

"What I want to talk about is something very dear to my heart: privacy, and the eroded nature of privacy in our lives today," said McAfee, in a BBC video of his Def Con talk.

"Google, or at least certain people within Google — I will not mention names ... would like us to believe that if we have nothing to hide we should not mind if everybody knows everything that we do. I have to take serious issue with that.

"We have done this because we are lazy, we want ease of living. We want comfort in our life. We'd rather be safe, secure and comfortable, than actually live and get out there and suffer, and see what life is all about," he said.

"I'm as guilty as you are."

McAfee, whose antivirus software company was purchased by Intel in 2010 for US$7.7 billion — 16 years after he left the company — suggested that humanity would be reduced to its "least common denominator" if personal data were to be shared universally.

"If everybody knew everything about everybody else, what would human behaviour become?" he said. "We would be limited to the least common denominator of human behaviour — those behaviours which no one would find offensive. You need to think this through."

in 1994, McAfee left the antivirus software company he founded, since then he has dedicated much of his energy to projects designed to protect digital privacy, which he equates with personal freedom.

"We cannot have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom. And freedom is all I have, and it's all you have, if you think about it," he said. "I hear people say 'I don't care — I've got nothing to hide'. It's not a matter of hiding anything. Here's the issue: unless you are willing to stand up, to take a stand to do something, then we're all lost," he said.

In October last year, after a reported run-in with officials in Belize in relation to a murder investigation in 2012, he announced he was working on a new company, Future Tense, aimed at circumventing the United States National Security Agency’s ability to track individuals.

Earlier this year, he announced he was involved with the development of a new secure messaging app, dubbed Chadder. His latest venture is a complaints and solutions site called Brownlist.com.

In January, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that McAfee products would be rebranded uder the microchip manufacturer's Intel Security group.

McAfee welcomed the rebrand.

"I am now everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet. These are not my words, but the words of millions of irate users," he told BBC news at the time.

Topics: Privacy, Big Data

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Leon covers enterprise technology and start-ups from ZDNet's Sydney newsroom.

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