Privacy ≠ Anonymity

19 07 2017

We have surely surrendered our privacy to the ether by our wide-open-armed embrace of the always-connected, always-on, virtual omnipotence that is the Internet.

So what?

Someone recently remarked that “we’ve lost our anonymity because of the total breech of any semblance of privacy.”

I disagree.

Sure, our tastes, habits, and interests are available to anyone who cares to Google us (and the people who own/pay Google.)  That’s losing privacy, but I believe it actually deepens our anonymity.  We are public, but we are mass-public . No matter the volume of data collected by LarrySergeyZuckerBezos, those tech giants will never know me.  They don’t want to know me and that is the beauty of everyone having no privacy – there are just too many of us to appear as unique individuals to these massive entities. 

In the face of all this all-access age, we, as individuals, are increasingly anonymous in many ways. While a lot more people know our names and our shopping habits, fewer and fewer folks would be able to identify us face-to-face. Many would point to this as a negative change in our social fabric.

I disagree.

Technology has enabled me to be casually social with lots of peripherally interesting folks while curating my circle of true friends to a group whose company I truly enjoy, whose counsel I respect, and whose ethics reflect my own.

Thank you, Internet, for making my life an open book and loading the shelves with so many other open books that only the few truly interested in knowing who I am will bother to turn a page or two.

Dear Diary, you are now obsolete. Love, Paula


Just Between You and Me

2 01 2013

What I am about to say is NOT a new idea. This is a quote from 1999.

You already have zero privacy. Get over it. – Scott G. McNealy CEO of Sun Microsystems Inc.

Many of my Facebook pals have recently sent a message asking me to do a keystroke-and-click dance to “keep their private posts private.”  I just laugh.  I do as they ask, but I know it is futile. Better to accept and understand that whatever is in the air is in the public air.

If you write it, speak it; or do it within range of another person, his camera, or microphone; it’s public.

How many people do you know whose cell phones are camera-less?  Right.

How many apps do you use that involve some component of the thing knowing your location?  Um-hmm.

Ever check out your neighborhood on (even the lowly) Mapquest’s aerial view?

See what I mean?

For any action or thought expressed outside our own imaginations, privacy is an illusion. Let’s just accept that and act accordingly. Who knows, it might make us behave better.

Can You Hear Me Now?

21 09 2011

“Lucky you – you get to travel for your job!  Must really be fun, living the expense account life.”

Well, not so much. Here I am in a pretty, but generic hotel room in Norfolk, Virginia.  I have driven all day, prepared for my meeting tomorrow, and had a (bad, no matter who paid for it) dinner alone.

I fire up the laptop for a quick check of e-mail, weather forecast, et cetera to discover the internet access is, well, it isn’t.  Connected, at last, but slow enough to make me miss the dial-up noises, I blunder through messages and log off so I can be up and at ‘em early in the morning.

Alarms set; I turn off the lights and the TV.  I know I turned it off. Why can I still hear it?  Oh.  OH.  OH!  It is from the room next door.  This won’t do, but what to do about it? I could knock on the door and ask for some neighborly consideration – that’s a woman traveler no-no.  I could tap gently on the wall and hope the message would be accepted without offense – could as easily result in guaranteed maximum volume all night. 

Wait a minute.  That’s not just the TV.  He’s on the phone and I can hear every word.  At first, I am even more annoyed, but then I realize this is my chance.  I call the front desk and politely inform the concierge that the gentleman in the adjacent room must surely not be aware of the lack of soundproofing in the walls and that I feel he should be warned that his conversations are not private as he might think.  It is the respectful and right thing to do.  It would be too unseemly for me NOT to warn him, via the front desk. There is relative quiet now, so I suppose my good deed message was delivered (courteously and professionally from Marriott staff.)

These days, we are all acutely aware and outraged by e-mail hacking, phone taps, and all other electronic assaults on our privacy.  It is wise to remember we, too, have a role in betraying our personal business.  Cell phone conversations are conducted in public places.  Computer screens are easily read from over our shoulders.  Portable communication devices give us the freedom to conduct business as if we were at home or in our offices, but we are NOT at home.

Whether or not you want me to, yes, I can hear you now.

Dear Diary

1 09 2010

Remember (way way back before the days of Facebook – Hell, before home computers,) when the closest anyone got to publishing their every thought was to keep a diary – a well-hidden, locked, protected-with-our-last-breath little leatherette-bound book?  I do.  I was confronted with six, yes six, of these wicked little reminders of my youthful shallowness and stupidity when my mother decided to clean out one of her spare bedroom closets this week. 

She may have wanted desperately to know the contents of my teen-aged mind, but I know my mother had not read them, even though she’d had ample opportunity. She could have never mentioned she’d found them; she could have had her way with them and I would never have known. My mother is NOT that kind of mother, though. She respected my privacy when I was fifteen, which is why I am a hundred percent open and honest with her to this day. 

What to do, what to do?  Should I burn them without even opening a page or should I revisit every high school crush, hurt feeling, insipid poem, raging sibling battle, and everything else I had so carefully memorialized all those years ago?  I knew I had to at least take a peek. I carried the volumes to my studio and opened the books. Inside, I discovered a person I can no longer remember being; someone whose goals and dreams are so foreign to me that I felt I was reading about someone else’s childhood.  Those words could not have come from me  .  .  .  but they had.

As embarrassed as I was to read those revelations, reveries, rants, and ridiculous notions, I felt relieved – relieved because I had grown up.  I had survived the ignorance and arrogance and insecurity of my youth and NOBODY had to know all those false starts and missteps that led me to who I am. 

I am planning a private celebratory burning of my diaries, erasing all physical evidence of my personal confessions of youthful irresponsibility and missed opportunity forever.  As I watch the flames consume my annotated foolishness, I will thank the Universe that Facebook did not exist in 1969 and hope today’s electronic diarists never have to regret not having kept some things to themselves – well-hidden and locked in fabulously flammable leatherette diaries.