Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Real Truth About Privacy

Back in the late seventies and early eighties I spent my summers sharing beach houses with friends in Avalon, New Jersey. They were lazy, crazy days filled with parties from happy hour to bar closings, excessive drinking, missed meals, and late night hook-ups hastened to the tune of Donna Summer singing "Last Dance."  

There was no Internet then, no cell phones, no text messaging or email. If you wanted to take a picture you needed a camera, not a smartphone. Making movies was reserved for filmmakers. If you were doing something you shouldn't be doing or with someone you shouldn't be with - it was alot easier to not get caught. 

Or so we wanted to believe. 

The truth is people got found out all the time. 

Your constitutional right to privacy meant nothing if that stolen kiss on the beach with the hot guy who was not your boyfriend was witnessed by your guy's best friend. And that joint you swore you didn't inhale? It was shared with someone who would be sure to give you away for the right price.

Which back then, prompted these words of advice from a slightly older and wiser friend.

"If you don't want to get caught - don't do it."

Mmm. So if I thought I might be embarrassed, mortified, ashamed, horrified, humiliated, appalled or any combination there of for something that has my name attached, I shouldn't worry about my privacy. Maybe - just maybe I should just think twice before doing it. 

Of course, today you don't have to be doing much to have your privacy breached. In the world of big data, what I order each time I visit  Starbucks is recorded for all posterity on my rewards App. I can't pretend I went to the gym three times this week because Equinox is tracking the proof. If I pin those cute jeans on Pinterest, thanks to remarketing (also known as stalking) those pants will haunt me until I buy them. Or disable the cookies. Facebook likes to say you get to pick your privacy settings, but really - who are they kidding? Someone at Facebook can surely see through whatever you blocked.

Unless you choose to live in the backwoods without an Internet connection or cell service or Duane Reade on the corner - real privacy in 2013 just does not exist.

I'm not sure it ever really has. But what I do know for sure is that when yours is comprised it spreads faster and quicker than any of us ever imagined back in those glory day summers, whiling away the afternoon in a sand chair admiring the hobie cats lined up on the beach. 

Which leads me back to that wise advice. If you're worried about who is listening in, what people will think if they find out your stuff or that you will get caught doing something you shouldn't be, like ordering one of those cinnamon chip scones made with real sugar, make a choice. 

Own it or just don't do it.

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