The end of privacy
8/8/2012 3:54:00 PM
I’ve just read an excellent post by Andrew Couts of Digital Trends, perhaps one of the most underrated of the many fine web sites that keep an eye on consumer tech. Titled ‘Who Killed Privacy? You Did,’ Couts’ article looks at how much personal information the average consumer is prepared to share online and how little we seem to care about what happens to that information.
Of course, Facebook is Exhibit A in any discussion on just how much of our private information we are prepared to divulge. It’s probably been quite a while since you set up your original Facebook page, but if you were to go back and re-build your profile from scratch, you might be quite surprised at just how much information you are expected to give away.
But that hasn’t stopped nearly one billion of us joining the big share-fest. We happily post our dates of birth, our home towns, our kids’ names, our work and education histories, our relationships, and even our favorite books and music. And it doesn’t stop there. Everywhere we go on the Internet, we hit Like buttons, adding more depth and detail to our online profiles.
If someone stopped us in the street to ask all these personal questions, we would surely be affronted by their brazenness, but here we are, happily giving up the same information to millions of people we’ve never met and an unknown number of corporations, app developers, and ad networks.
As Couts points out, our willingness to give up personal information is matched only by our complacency when all-to-frequent privacy breaches make the headlines. Whether it’s the PlayStation Network getting hacked or Google’s StreetView program collecting private data from homeowner networks, we shake our heads, shrug as if there is nothing we can do about it, and carry on just as before.
So what are the long term consequences of all this data floating around on the Internet? Is the exposure of our own personal information just the price we have to pay for living in a world where we can find out anything we need to know in a one second search?
As Coutts suggests, there may eventually be a backlash against all this sharing. Maybe we will wake up one day and realize that posting everything about ourselves online is not worth it, not even for 500+ ‘friends.’ However, there’s one small problem with that: it’s already too late. The information is out there and there’s no getting it back.