Privacy…everyone keeps talking about it and apparently everyone is concerned with it, but does it matter? I recently watched the documentary, “Terms and Conditions may Apply,” which provides a fascinating look at how organizations such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and others have changed the way they look at and approach privacy. After watching the movie it had me wondering, “does privacy even matter anymore?”
Most of use Facebook, have iPhones, use Twitter, search on Google, and use the hundreds of other tools and platforms on the web. All of these companies have “terms and conditions” documents that pretty much none of us read. In effect everyone that uses these technologies has signed away their privacy yet we still see people saying that they want more privacy. What gives? I think we’ve clearly reached a point in today’s world where privacy is pretty much a lost cause. Our information is already out there and regardless of how hard we scream that we want it back or want it to be secure, it’s not going to happen…ever. If anything we are seeing a shift towards more openness, more transparency, and less privacy.
Most people (in my opinion) don’t event know what information they are giving up or to whom. For example, in their recent Privacy Index, EMC found that 51% of respondents were not willing to give up their personal information for a better experience (27% were), however, how many of these people realize that they are already doing this multiple times over every single day? In fact it’s safe to say that if you want privacy then you probably shouldn’t be using the internet. It doesn’t appear that businesses or governments are going to protect us either. I’m not quite sure how we got to this point, one minute I was filling out my profile to join Facebook and the next minute some company I’ve never heard of has hundreds of data points on me.
Are we too far over the line to head back to the other side? Is it even possible to do so?
I’ve just talked about social media data above but what about your health records, browsing habits, purchases, financial data, or employment information? Although some of these forms of data might be considered to be more secure than others many social media users are actually publicly sharing this information online on their Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Instagram photos, Foursquare check-ins, Linkedin profiles, or anywhere else you can think of. So it’s not just the fact that companies have information about us that we don’t know they are collecting it’s about the fact that we are opting in to this lack of privacy and in many case go above that by actually purposefully sharing private information.
It seems like going forward we have two choices. We can either accept that privacy is dead and that we now live in an open world or we can challenge this notion and continue to fight for privacy. The second option seems to be a bit of a paradox though. We want more security and more privacy but at the same time we want:
- our corporations to be more open and transparent
- to use social technologies without we don’t want being able to see our information
- to be able to buy and use free products and services without giving up anything in return
- to opt into using things like Google and itunes without reading the terms and conditions agreements, assuming that they have our best interest in mind
What’s scary is that we’ve gotten to a point where many of the things we do and the tools we use are such a big part of our lives that we HAVE to use them today. Are you really going to delete your Facebook account, stop using Google, no longer buy products online, or ditch your iphone? No, you’re not because everyone else that you know on this planet is using those same things as well.
So is privacy dead? It sure seems that way, and we are the ones who killed it without even knowing it.