The Fight for Privacy

For those of us older than Millennials, we grew up in the age of privacy. We all learned at some point that loose lips sink ships; don’t say anything you wouldn’t say or repeat in public. Our kids and grandkids have no such training. People share what they had for breakfast and “like” what the girls are wearing at school. They feel every moment in life needs to be shot through a tiny, little screen to be posted online. How many of you have gone to concerts and have seen people glued to their cell phones shooting a concert they paid 80 bucks to see? I actually admire musicians who go, “Turn the damn things off or I’m going off-stage. Watch the performance, and buy the recording later.”

For those of you who think about social media and privacy and are concerned about it and about what to teach the young people in your life, there are some things you might want to know and arm yourself with. Every legal policy, no matter where you are in the world, says ignorance is not a defense. And if you choose to be an ignorant about social media, computing, and digital privacy, you can’t say, “I didn’t know. No one told me.” You have to educate yourself.

Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, once said, “We know where you are, we know where you’ve been, we more or less know what you’re thinking about.” When people have questioned the invasion of privacy from technology like Google Street View, he has responded, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” And yet, surprisingly, more recently he had this to say: “You have to fight for your privacy or you will lose it.” How is the man who helped shepherd a company that is the largest violator of privacy suddenly privacy’s champion? What happened in his professional life that now he says we have to fight for privacy? Oh, could it be because drones are now commercially available, and he doesn’t want his neighbors flying drones over his property? Either way, the sentiment is true. We must be educating ourselves on the ways burgeoning technology affects our personal lives, and we need to speak out against corporations and government policies that abuse that technology. We must be actively demanding our right to privacy, or we will lose it.