Today’s WordPress poll asked the following question: “Is Online Privacy Dead?” Yes, or No.
I chose “Yes”. But, I wanted to expand on my answer. I tried to leave a comment, but it was flagged as “spam” for some reason, and rejected.
No worries. Thanks to my trusty blog, I have a personal “platform” to share all my “brilliant” views on life with the world, whether the world is interested or not. For anyone that is interested, here is are my thoughts on the subject of “Privacy” in the year 2010, and beyond….
When the internet was born, the definition of “privacy” was changed forever. The 20th Century definition of privacy is, for all intents and purposes “dead”. We now live in the so-called “age of transparency”. There are online hackers, and other dishonest folk, who take advantage of this reality. They can steal our medical records, bank accounts, credit cards, social security numbers, and entire identity with a click of a mouse. If we own a phone, the number can be found. With new technology, our conversations can be monitored and recorded. If we own a cellular phone, our location can be traced. If we have a facebook or other social networking site, the world can potentially learn everything they would ever want to know [and more] about us. If we have an email account, it can be highjacked, and we can be inpersonated.
Case in point. Just this morning, I received the following correspondence from a family member. [copied an pasted word-for-word for your reading pleasure, de-identified].
From: [my family member’s email address]
Sorry for not informing of my recent trip to London for a program. I had intended to stay for five (5) days,
but for the mishap I had…. Some gangsters strapped me of my money and my traveling document, that I was left empty. I need to pay for my hotel accommodation and other traveling expenses, therefore will need candid help by asking for a soft loan of ($ 2500.) to enable me solve the financial burden. Please you can remit to me through Western Union Money Transfer. Name: [my family member’s full name here] I will appreciate. Here is my address: [address in the UK given]
Thanking you in anticipation.
[first name of my family member]
This ridiculous email would be more laughable, if it wasn’t causing so much damage and disruption to a real person that I love.
There are people who choose to NEVER use a computer in the attempt to stave off these kind of things, and preserve their “privacy”. Are they really “safe”? No. You might be able to control your own actions, but you certainly have no control over others. There are millions of people choosing to post stories, photos or contact info daily of their family, friends, children, coworkers, and perfect strangers. This is regularly done without any notice, or permission.
If you ever venture outside the four walls of your home then your movements are being tracked by security cameras on the street, in parking lots, stores, the bank, the zoo…name the place, and chances are, they’ve captured your movements.
Anything can potentially end up online. We live in an age when nearly every person we see [or don’t see] is carrying some sort of electronic device capable of recording, filming or photographing. You never know when something you do will turn up on YouTube. And, if it is something really stupid or embarassing – it’s almost guaranteed to be tomorrows breaking story!
Knowing these things could cause our stress level to rise. A lack of security means potential danger to us, and that’s scary. But, remember “God has not given us a spirit of fear” 2 Tim. 1:7. We can reject paranoia. Life is a beautiful gift! Being born into the ‘age of the internet’ has amazing benefits. There is always a bright side to everything. Our “New Age [lack of] Privacy” has a bright side –
Extra motivation for living honestly and honorably. To borrow a great movie line:
“being a good person even when you don’t think anyone is watching“.
– Will Smith as ‘Tim Thomas’ in 7 Pounds
If you are alive, [and you don’t happen to live in a cave in Pakistan], then you really can’t hide. Someone is always watching. But, Is “transparency” really a new phenomenon to the 21st Century? I submit that it has always existed. Before this life, we lived with God. Each of us were given a “full disclosure statement” prior to being sent to Earth. At that time, we signed a contract. We agreed to be put through a personal test which would be recorded, monitored and carefully preserved for replay and review. We knew that at the end of the test, our scores would be tallied, a final judgement of our collective actions, thoughts, intentions, deeds and misdeeds would be handed down, and we would receive a reward. It is reported that each of us sang together and shouted for joy to take this test. Why weren’t we scared? Because we knew we would not be alone. Someone would be keeping an eye on us, and giving unseen help.
A Prophet-King named Benjamin gave what I think is the best possible advice for passing the test:
“watch yourselves.” – Mosiah 4:30