Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

I am concerned about privacy. It’s a first for me really. I’ve generally been discreet in my lifetime about other peoples’ secret confessions. I know what sort of information, when shared, should not be further passed on. Regarding my own sordid details, I’ve never been particularly worried. After all, who would really want to know about that stolen street sign that occupied my closet for years? There are much better things for law enforcement to do than track down a marginal offender. The paperwork alone would cost the city more than just replacing the sign (which is long gone by the way, so City of Jamestown PD should not bother to come looking for it).

Anyhow, my paranoid vs. carefree internal scale is becoming seriously off balance. Nothing earth-shatteringly horrible has happened to me personally (probably because I'm kind of boring), but there are plenty of examples of people being fired for a Facebook comment, spouses learning their partners are not as monogamous as they thought and adolescent-style arguments on the "walls" of the web sites of adults. And is there a social networking site or a technological device that HASN’T had a glitch that exposed private data?

No matter what point of view you possess on any singular topic, this is very alarming when considered collectively. How many of us are present in Youtube clips and don’t even know it? Are there satellite images of us picking our noses while driving? Who is collecting all this data anyway?

As much as I hate the idea of the invasion of my privacy, I have to admit I have been a willing conspirator in the dissemination of my own information. I use Facebook and my profile is not private. I am registered to use dozens of web sites, many of which I’m sure I’ve forgotten exist. I have helped all of these outlets collect my private information then I get irritated they use it. The biggest entity I have to blame for the invasion of my privacy is…me? That can’t be right!

In owning up to myself, I have a couple excuses.

1) It’s just too darn easy to share. Each comment I make, each picture I take is just an upload away (sounds like a song, doesn’t it?).

2) I get carried away with really neat-o stuff. See a cute little push-pin map of every location you’ve ever visited on this planet then display it on your home page. Whee! Fun!

Internet communications move so fast, we just don’t stop to think how quickly and where our information is going. Your data is seen real-time as you post it. You can delete it, but someone has likely seen it already. We type before thinking now and consider it casual conversation.

There are certainly more unobtrusive and more serious invasions of our privacy. We are on camera unknowingly for a large proportion of our lives as we work, as we drive, even as we relax with friends at a restaurant. Some of us are watched and listened to in our own homes whether by accident or design. We are violated by others even as we violate ourselves.

There’s not much we can do day-to-day about governments, businesses or other individuals intruding. That doesn’t make it right or allowable. I’m just saying maybe we should start with making ourselves less accessible to begin with. Well, then, I’m off to delete that Facebook profile just as soon as I publish my opinion in the form of a blog in the most public forum ever imagined. Who am I kidding?

Sincerely part of the problem,