Thoughts on Internet Privacy

Today is the day Google’s new Privacy Policy goes into effect.  I haven’t read it.  I might.  I know what I know about it from news reports and blogs.  I figured today would be as good a day as any to polish up this work-in-progress and finally post it.  So here you are.

I continue to fail to understand the notion that on "the Internet" everyone SHOULD be anonymous by default and "going public" is an opt-in scenario.  In this information age, this is an antiquated way of doing things. 

Damn near everything we do–those of us who aren’t hermits or luddites–IS trackable by default.  So when do we stop treating the privacy wonks like they’re the majority?  ARE they the majority?  Do MOST people truly care about this?  (We could argue forever about whether or not they should…but that’s not my point.)

We Americans have a long history of hanging on to things for no other reason than because we always have.  It’s why you can still ride your horse down the middle of main street and cars have to wait for you.  It’s why a hundred years from now merchants will still be obligated to accept hard currency as payment.  And it’s why now, when (I assert) most people don’t give a damn about their privacy, as evidenced by the millions who join Facebook and never alter the default security settings and who never EVER read a EULA or a privacy statement, a vocal minority cries "foul!" in their name when companies do what they said they would do–track everything you do.

I. Don’t. Care.

I think I used to.  Maybe.  And I reserve the right to some day change my mind and start caring about this again.  But these companies don’t care about "me".  Or you.  Or anyone else.  They care about aggregate data which they analyze to determine trends and target information, most notably advertising.  This has been going on for as long as advertising has existed.  You don’t send catalogs advertising fur coats to Hawaii.  That’s a no-brainer.  As someone with something to sell and a limited advertising budget, you want to know who is most likely to buy your stuff.  Information such as browsing histories and even the contents of your e-mail is all tossed together to help companies get the biggest bang for their advertising dollar.
And I’m good with that.  I know the potential to abuse this information exists.  But I’m willing to take my chances.  The argument that those who advocate for Privacy Rights must have something to hide is crap and I know it.  I’m not making that argument.  But I really don’t have anything to hide.  So I personally don’t see the point of bothering to.  I live my daily existence making three assumptions:

  1. Everything I type on any computer anywhere is being seen and read by everyone, everywhere.
  2. Everything I say on any telephone is being heard by everyone, everywhere.
  3. Every time I leave my house, someone is taking my picture.

I assume those three things and behave accordingly.  Is that sad?  Is it "giving in"?  Maybe.  But in my analysis, it’s far easier to "own" my behavior and its consequences than it is to exercise the level of paranoia and subsequent action that would be necessary to obviate those three assumptions.  I don’t want to live like that!  There are some things that simply must be kept private and secret because People Suck.  Things like your Social Security number, bank account info, and passwords/PINs for accessing them.  But the rest of it?  Meh.  Google/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest are all welcome to it!

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Internet Privacy

  1. So, you posit that because you and your friends don’t care about your privacy, the rest of us should be subjected to the same loose assumptions and should give up fighting for something we care about. Substitute for "privacy" something you do care about: religion? technology? right to drive? right to buy a double-cheeseburger? Just because I and my friends don’t care about double-cheeseburgers, doesn’t mean we should support policies prohibiting you from eating them.

  2. Not at all!  What I object to is people fighting for people who obviously don’t care one way or the other.  It’s up to each person individually to decide what level of protection they want, if any.  If you buy a piece of land and want to sleep in a tent with all your belongings in piles on the ground just "out there" and trust that people won’t walk up and steal it when you’re asleep/not there, you should be allowed to do that by default.  What I’m against is people saying that there ought to be a house with deadbolts and alarm systems in place by default.  I want an empty slate I can customize to my liking.  Not a house of settings I have to tear down (turn off).  And I don’t want anyone telling me I should have one.

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