Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Privacy is an interesting topic. Every company has a "privacy policy" and we all have private information. Yet, we are, as a culture, all too eager to willingly give up the lion's share of our private lives. I am not passing judgement on this, just making an observation today.

Last week Google rolled out its new privacy policy. If you read the words around the policy they say something to the effect that the changes will not affect your privacy per se, they will just share your habits, information, key words, etc. with all of their affiliated sites in order to make your "online experience more meaningful". You should read this to mean that any time you use a Google product (YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Google Groups, etc.), Google is watching and recording what you do. They will then use that information to post ads, make page suggestions, etc. to make the price of their ads go up. Its a brilliant move by Google and I am sure their revenue will soar. The vast majority of people will not read the policy and will certainly not change any of their habits. I will probably not change any of my habits but it will always be (and has been for a while) in my mind that Google Big Brother is always watching, always. That said, lets look into this a little more.

It's always funny to me to see people ranting on Facebook about other people "getting into their business." Can anyone else see the irony in that? We all think we want privacy and to be able to live our lives without the scrutiny of others yet we willingly give out some of our most private information and moments on Facebook, Twitter and other outlets. It makes the identity thief's job so much easier. People do terribly private things over video chat that is so easy to record and redistribute. Once its out there, its out there forever. Yet we still get upset when we feel our privacy is invaded. My question is, "where is the line anymore?"

Another interesting development is the information jealousy that has arisen out of this purging of private information. I have seen this firsthand. I post something on Facebook before telling someone close to me. I fail to realize that some information is special enough that it still warrants a phone call and that there are hierarchies of importance for people to learn info. In other words, it is more important for my mom and dad to learn about something first than it is for my old high school chum to read about it on Facebook. It's not that I don't love them if I mess this order up. Its just that it is easy to post it and disseminate to all 1000 of my "friends." Besides, if they love me, they will be hanging on every moment to read the information, right?

I am starting to wonder where this voluntary forefeiture of privacy is leading. Some people already expect you to put everything on Facebook. Basically, if you didn't post it, it didn't happen. I don't blame them. Outlets like Facebook have replaced our ability to actually keep up with people and have conversations. I have witnessed people put terribly private things on Facebook that involve others before they even discuss it with that person. I recently saw a friend of mine post very revealing information about the state of their marriage. Whats really crazy is that some of that person's friends "liked" it (it was not good news by the way)! I know for sure that the other marriage partner did not, would not, could not have been very happy about this. Its one thing to air your dirty laundry to a friend or two but to post on Facebook, come on!  This to me is especially insidious because it is not just your information that you are willingly giving up, it is your spouse's also. You revealed information about someone else without their consent. You should not ever have the right to confess someone else's sins or misgivings.

At what point do we shift the other way and start to value our privacy again? Why do we feel the compulsion to share EVERYTHING with everyone? Do people value privacy at all? What do you think?

1 comment:

Misty W. said...

Information you post on Facebook or similar sites, no matter what your privacy settings are, can be used against you in a court of law. Even if you set everything to private, information you choose to post on social sites is considered public information. People need to take a moment and absorb the full meaning of that. If you post pictures of yourself drinking, this can be used against you in custody cases. Things you say about other people can be considered defamation of character and you can be held liable. I'm not sure that people truly appreciate that what you post and publish will remain out there and can crop up at some of the most unimaginable times.

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