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Privacy…

Such a concept is difficult to define. It is intangible; only revealing itself when one fails to respect it or maintain it; however, it is revered as one of if not the most important aspects of humanity.  In order to protect our supposed physical privacy we erect walls, hang drapes, lock doors, and most importantly, we wear clothing. In order to protect our information, we continuously update our passwords…. with a special symbol, a number, and characters not found on most functioning keyboards if necessary; we shred documents containing valuable or personal information. We whisper, talk behind closed doors, and even send cryptic messages in attempts to veil the content of our communication. Our personal information is our identity, and we even go so far as to hire companies to restore that identity should our privacy become breached.

One might say that given all the attention that it receives, privacy is the most valuable of all assets.  But does privacy really even exist?

In wake of the Wikileaks earlier this year, privacy of information has come under extreme scrutiny with transparency transplanting it as the preeminent buzz word around corporate and governmental proceedings. And although the dangers of disclosing protected information are very real, the entire scandal has left corporate executives and bureaucrats painfully aware that their actions both public and private have the potential to fall under the lens of the public eye, thus hopefully begetting more ethical behavior out of both public and private sector leaders.

So, it should be assumed that when in a position of public trust, in many facets, privacy cannot exist because there is too much pressure to be transparent. But what about in spheres away from the public spotlight? Can privacy withstand the onslaught of the snooping neighbor hoping to score fresh gossip material, the machiavellian coworker inclined to betray a secret in order to augment his/her status within the company, or a malicious stranger who will hijack your identity to milk you dry before moving on to the next helpless victim?

Personal privacy is dependent upon mutual trust. Trust that your neighbor will respect your boundaries. Trust that disclosing information to your colleagues is done so in good faith and as such what is shared will not be reveled. Trust that the safeguards used to protect your precious identity will succeed in doing so. Without that trust, the only privacy that can exist is the privacy that exists within our own minds, but even with that, thanks to the unscrupulous way society as a whole wields technology, we have all but waived our right to that.

Ignored. Privacy is most frequently ignored not by those looking to breach its walls but by those capable of erecting them. We are the guilty ones, but what’s worse is that we are doing it willingly however without conscious awareness. We live in a society with an insatiable desire to share. Everywhere we go we are  prompted to share, tweet, like, check-in, or contribute. In such a world, privacy is an illusion. Every step is tracked; every event, the monumental and minutia, chronicled.


Jamey Burrell

@jamesdburrell2Jamey Burrell
Working on my #letsblogoff post for tmw (@ Mellow Mushroom)4sq.com/pOATjv
Jamey likes country music.
Jamey commented on his own status.
Jamey was here.
Jamey did this.
Jamey blah blah blah.
Jamey has told anyone with an email address his life story without reservation of future repercussions.
Ok, so letting folks in on my secretive adoration of country music or the movie Love Actually isn’t career or life threatening, but a quick survey of your Facebook friends will reveal quite a bit of information that is probably not suited to be shared on such a easily disseminated platform. For instance, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to note your relationship status on Facebook, but perhaps use a little discretion when sharing such information. “In a relationship” = Good. Intimate detail of plans for your next date = bad.
Nothing ruins a good like a stalkerish ex lurking two tables behind you…. not that I’m speaking from experience in case any of you were wondering — I’m still working up the courage to talk to girls — I hear they have coodies.
My favorite social media privacy faux pax, however, is the Foursquare check-in at Home. Granted, I’m a frequent Foursquare user, I cringe to think of the number of people who openly share with the world when they’ve arrived to their exact place of residence. Come on people, try overcoming your lack of given mental aptitude and resist the urge to share with would be attackers your every move.
So I talked about privacy. Well maybe I mentioned the word a time or two. Does it exist or is it purely an illusion we fabricate to feel better about our lives? With privacy, we feel a sense of security from the outside world. When we keep our actions private, we are secure from embarrassment resulting from them. When our beliefs are maintained in private, we are secure from attacks being made against them. And when our thoughts are held in private, we are secure in knowing that people are unaware just how peculiar we reall
y are.
Does privacy exist? Well, probably not, but I prefer to pretend it does than to face the reality of knowing that someone else is watching… unless of course that someone is Optimus Prime and the Autobots.
The author of this post respects your privacy, and as such, will only share your comments publicly here on this blog for every visitor to see.

Be sure to check out these other participating Let’s Blog Off posts below.

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  • http://twitter.com/modicana Pat Eggleton

    Yes, it is true that we are constantly being urged to share online. Do you think this is because we are losing our sense of community in real life?

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Pat,

      I’d say it’s a combination of things. Certainly, we are protected by a veil of anonymity when we share online. Sure, I’m still me, but I rarely run the risk of encountering a reader of my blog on the street. But to answer your question, I think we have lost a sense of community in real life. Stimuli abound, and daily life is increasingly rife with insignificant distractions. Even the idea of a sit down dinner is almost outdated as we are consuming food on the go between baseball practice and PTA meetings, networking cocktail hours and secondary jobs, etc. We converse with each other at the superficial level; “how are the kids?… read about such and such? … so the weather….”, but how frequently do we find ourselves immersed in meaningful conversations? Rarely, so folks like you and I have taken our longing for real conversation to the digital mediums of Twitter and Blogs. 

      Where we might lack in the personal intimacy that existed in the parlor room conversations of the past, we more than make up for with the wealth of knowledge, diversity of opinion, and geographical reach that our conversations possess here on the blogosphere. What do you think? 

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Jamey

  • http://jdmeier.myopenid.com/ J.D. Meier

    It’s amazing how much privacy is based on obfuscation or inconvenience.

    The more friction-free personal information becomes, the more privacy erodes.

    Information leaks are abundant and social engineering is a timeless pattern.

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Couldn’t agree more JD