Why We Care (or Don’t Care) About Privacy

In my short time as a certified adult, I’ve noticed one peculiar trait of the generational divide. Many adults are extremely concerned about privacy, sometimes to a degree I think is a little crazy. I once heard someone say you shouldn’t put your actual home address as your home in a car GPS. If your car gets stolen, the thief will not only know you’re not home, but will know where your empty house is located. I suppose that’s a concern, but how likely is your car to get stolen in the first place? Then, how likely is the thief to be interested in anything besides selling the parts of your car? Sure, the risk isn’t 0, but certainly it’s not high enough to make our own lives difficult. I think what people don’t understand is that we blindly accept many intrusions or risks of intrusions to our privacy.

Cars still come to mind, this time for their license plates. It’s your car, your property that you paid for. Yet, you still have to go to a government office and assign that vehicle a number. You have to go through training and be assigned a license to prove you have the right to use the property you own. When we were all born, we were assigned an identification number so we could be tracked by the government.

No one bats an eye., but Facebook comes out with a messenger app that requests the same kind of personal information that nearly every other app request and the world blows up.

There are some reasons to be concerned. It seems like every day I hear a new story about a company getting hacked (why is no one talking about this?? How they hell does this happen with such frequency). As I sit here writing, the morning news told me Dairy Queen is the next business to be hit. That is some scary stuff no doubt. That said, it doesn’t make me want to jump to cash or my checkbook. Most credit cards have a system in place for you to report fraudulent charges. I once had such a charge and my credit card removed said charge before they even started their investigation. The long story short is, all these hacks don’t make me fear for myself. I pay hyper attention to my account to make sure any bad charges are removed immediately.

Maybe I’m less concerned because I grew up used to social media. I share my random thoughts on this blog and throughout Twitter and Facebook. Clearly I am just used to sharing this stuff. I think it’s more than that, though. I have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.

This photo, “Cartoon: Big Data” is copyright (c) 2014 Thierry Gregorius and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. The image was cropped to create the featured image.
This photo, “Cartoon: Big Data” is copyright (c) 2014 Thierry Gregorius and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. The image was cropped to create the featured image.

I’m not sure if this is a generation thing or a TK thing, but I hate hiding who I am. I did that through much of my childhood, afraid of disappointing my parents, friends or teachers with little more than my opinions and plan for life. As it was, my father had a minor freak out when I choose my college major and a… not so little… freak out when I decided to study abroad. Were the tears I cried after telling my father I would be taking out a larger student loan so I could study abroad the next semester worth it? Was hearing him tell me how stupid, ignorant and foolish I was over and over again during our phone conversation worth it? The answer is an unequivocal yes. I’m not here to pretend anything. I am who I am, I do what I do and I’m not about to hide.

What does this have to do with privacy? So many of our concerns are related to our personal lives. Where we work, what gym we belong to, where we bank and what we have done in our lives. For example, on this blog I don’t use my real name and I don’t provide the name of the place I work. I don’t even talk about my title at work. This is important, not because I’m ashamed or hiding, but for the preservation of my job and those in my life. I’ve had a stalker before and, while I love you all, I’d prefer to avoid stalkers in the future. That’s really about it. Close friends and family are welcome to that information. I have no problem telling a stranger in the coffee shop where I work. Hell, if someone asked me if I had sex before, I’d probably respond with, “Yes. Why?” I mean, it’s just a fact, nothing to be ashamed of.

The difference between putting my name on my blog and telling my name to a stranger is that I am in control off the internet. I have the chance to look at said stranger and decide whether or not they are a person I want to give my name to. On the internet, I lose that control. When I get a credit card, I also lose that control. Even if I never use it, there is a bank full of people who know my credit card number. The government is full of people with access to my social security number. They’re just people and as susceptible to human fallibility as anyone else.

In reality, there is little more than my name and my occupation that is truly mine. i guess I’ve gotten so used to this world and I don’t mind. I like that my cellphone has GPS on it so my body can be easily found if I’m murdered or kidnapped (not that I’m betting on that happening). I like that I have access to friends old and new through Facebook. I certainly love buying things online. Privacy is important, but letting go provides so much luxury. It’s hard for me to have  problem.

How concerned are you about your personal privacy? Have you considered going ‘off the grid’ to avoid intrusion into your privacy? What products to you avoid to maintain your privacy? If a stranger in a coffee shop asked if you had sex before, would you be likely to provide an answer?

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21 thoughts on “Why We Care (or Don’t Care) About Privacy”

  1. I personally, it’s a case of being free from spam. Google, Facebook, and every internet company make money from targeted ads based on data banks gathered from your uploads. So I disconnected from FB and google long ago.

    What’s scary is when I say uploads, I mean every input you do in the net. Google tracks clicks, site time, searches, apps downloaded, videos watched and log in times. When using your Android, the keyboard registers your Key strokes and customizes your predictive text automatically. This may not seem like a big deal, but all this input influences the subtle ads in every page using adsense, it even personalizes your search results to get you to view sites with stuff you may want to buy.

    This bombardment of native/subtle advertising influences your web habits, some studies show. I cant cite any, because I got this information from Ryan Holiday’s book, and another book titled the Shallows.

    But, point is: unknowingly having your personal information is the dealbreaker with the privacy stuff. I mean, how would you like giving those out without your permission?

    1. I guess I just accept that all those actions are tracked. I don’t mind ads being tailored to me. I still don’t click them, but at least they’re not quite as annoying. I also like that my phone gets to know me, allowing me to text faster and remembering sites I like. Perhaps it’s because I deal with paid search at my work, but it just doesn’t bother me. That said, a person should have the right to opt out of having that information tracked. Seems only fair that way.

  2. I once had an intrusive FB “friend.” Her freedom to poke at things I post in my account (plus my loose security awareness) caused me to feel threatened, I ended up deactivating for two or more years.

    1. I’m all over social media, but I don’t feel like I share anything I wouldn’t in real life. I think that’s key. Whatever you put out there is out there. I may avoid topics I post here when in the company of certain people, but I’d say the same things I say online if and when those discussions ever come up.

  3. I think there’s a fine line between privacy and paranoia. A lot of what you described sounds more like paranoia to me. Using the internet at all comes with risks of people finding your personal information. You need to give it in order to do online banking, pay bills, register for school, etc. The way our culture is set up, it’s hard to avoid.

    I’ll admit that I’m a little paranoid, but I’m mostly private. I don’t feel the need to hide who I am to people, but I also don’t feel the need to offer up personal information to strangers. I’ve had a stalker, too, and it ruined my life for two years. I’m not as trusting as I used to be, and I view it as a good thing. I’m careful about what I say online and off.

    I have very few Facebook friends, honestly only people who I actually talk to in person, and I’m planning to always keep it that way. Every random person I meet doesn’t need to know what I’m thinking on a daily basis. People in a coffee shop don’t need to know if I’ve had sex. For one thing, it’s none of their business, and for another, I am not chatty enough to ever be in a situation where I’d have a conversation like that with a stranger, anyway.

    I have often WISHED I could go off the grid. I like to be left alone. Too many people talking to me feels like a great intrusion. But I don’t think I’d ever really go off the grid, not permanently. I like my computer and my coffee maker and my texting too darn much for that.

    1. There is definitely a line between privacy and paranoia. Maybe people get the two confused. I’m an odd mix. I mean, I’d never bring up the topic of sex with a stranger, but if I were having a discussion with someone and it came up, I wouldn’t back away from the question.

      I do think twice before I put anything out there. I don’t have anyone I haven’t met in person as a friend on Facebook either. I did that once before college and it didn’t turn out well. I guess to me that’s more common sense than privacy.

  4. I don’t Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest or Etsy for all of the obvious privacy reasons. Then again, I have a VERY common name and nigh-on impossible to find me specifically. Lucky, lucky!

    1. You know me, I’m all over social media. But I take care. These days, most social mediaing I do is for the blog. I’m not sure that counts as personal sharing.

  5. So, it appears this has been fixed but, when I first started reading your blog I checked out some of your other social networks. I think it was on your pinterest at the time, not 100% anymore. Anyway, I know what your first name is lol. No worries though, I won’t tell anyone. Except J… he knows…

    I’m not super worried about my personal privacy. I’m just hiding from my past. I use an old nickname of mine on my social networks to avoid people I don’t care for. As for the hacker thing, they’re just people like you and me spending time on the internet… albeit in nefarious ways but ah, c’est la vie.

    I once watched an interview with this 23 yr old guy from Sweden. He and his 3 friends hacked into banks and stole thousands from them all over the world without any of the banks ever noticing the money was gone. He didn’t keep it though. That was just how he advertised his business. He would take the money to the banks and say, “Look. I stole all this money. You didn’t even know it was gone. For a little less then this pile of money, I’ll fix the issues with your system so others can’t steal from you like this.” And the crazy thing was, most banks turned him down.

    As for your coffee shop sex question, I’d probably say something along the lines of, “Yes, why?” as well. Just seems like an odd way to start a conversation. Unless of course it’s for an assignment or something.

    1. Yeah, my name isn’t a huge deal. I mostly changed it in social media pages just to match the blog. Everything I do is for the blog these days.

  6. As a Baby Boomer, we grew up with that privacy so that’s why we find it more intrusive than probably you do. But because I’m online a lot and have built a web site that I plan to launch soon and I’m on social media, I’m pretty much used to it. But….even though I’m used to itLOL there is always that PANG-when another drop of privacy—that invisible line- has dropped away. Best! Sora

  7. I am naturally a very private person and always have been. I tend to keep very personal things to myself, even with people I have known for quite some time. However, I not only happily post photos of my family life on Facebook but I do so on my blog here too. I, therefore, feel like I walk the line between privacy and paranoia and do so in a way that works for me and which I am comfortable with. Therefore, I share my family’s experiences on my blog and illustrate it with photos of my children but I keep my kids’ names anonymous and don’t state which town we live in or what schools my kids attend or which company my (also anonymous) husband works for. That’s common sense applied to a reasonable degree as far as I am concerned. I also rant and rave about certain subjects on my blog so clearly I don’t feel concern about the privacy of my opinions. There are more sensitive subjects, however, that I would not share in a public forum such as the internet but likewise I also would not answer a personal question asked of me by a stranger – though nor would their personal question automatically offend me.

    I have Messenger on my phone and don’t see its access to my data being any different from any of the other times I explicitly or implicitly hand over access to my personal data to various companies and organisations. It is incumbent upon them to protect and safeguard the information I have entrusted in them. There are consequences if they don’t.

    My mindset is that I treat anything I put on the internet – from Facebook to my blog – as if I was posting it in the town square. In the case of Facebook at least, I can see who is accessing my information; in the case of my blog, it’s as if I have left the notice there and wandered away and anyone can go view it. If I wouldn’t say it in public, then I don’t post it on the internet. That’s my rule. I am, therefore, just as private in real life as I am online. Sensible moderation.

    1. That all makes sense to me. You probably share more of your personal life than I do, the way it sounds. I rarely post pictures or anything like that on Facebook these days. However, I am quite open about my opinions. The truth is, I did have a lot of the discussions I have on this blog in real life. It just so happens that people did not want to have these conversations as often as I did and thus a blog was born! That’s what I have here. This blog is more like a public discussion in a coffee shop that anyone can overhear and comment on.

  8. I don’t want Google or Facebook to know my phone number or where I live, but I share quite a lot of personal information aka random thoughts and links with my facebook friends (yay for privacy settings; but I’ve become a lot more cautious after learning more on how news spread and legal stuff). On my blog, however, I try to stay somewhat anonymous and don’t give away my exact current location. There are hints maybe, and sometimes I tell where something took place or a picture was taken – e.g. Dublin, Hamburg, Paris, Zanzibar, to name a few examples from my photo blog. Still, I try not to state anything about my permanent residence. My first name is the closest thing to private information one might stumble across by pure chance.

    1. That’s about how I am. It tickles into social media as well. I really don’t use social media outside of this blog (and work). That means I rarely post my exact location or even the name of people I’ve hung out with.

      I wonder if my real life friends miss me, given the rarity of my social media posts…

  9. For me it has to do with human nature. There is a reason why we go though an entire lifetime with only a handful of friends. jealousy, envy, meanness, greed, racism, nationalism, yada yada yada. People can be and often are just evil…. period….. even “best friends” can be evil.

    It was once said that “someone always has a “gun” pointed at your head even if you don’t realize it…… don’t give them any “bullets”.”

    Posting your life, your financial situation, your romantic attachments, etc etc etc and exposing yourself unduly is just asking for trouble If you must get a drivers license so be it…but posting that number on the internet is nothing more than an invitation for problems..

    So keeping your private life private is just a matter of common sense…if you truly understand human nature.

    Do I distrust everyone, am I a cynic, am I fearful, am I a recluse? no no no and no…but i do have some common sense and enjoy living with as little conflict as possible.

    Ask victims of identity theft how long it took to repair their credit, ask people who posted sext pictures if it came back to bite them, ask people who made ONE mistake in their past if it has affected their potential for getting a job, I think they all might be a little paranoid now… and that’s life.

    1. Right, but you’re not ranting against getting a drivers license, just giving that information to the wrong people. Victims of identity theft and such are tragic. They have reason to be paranoid. That said, I wonder what the likelihood of that happening to a person is. I mean, you’re not going to post a SSN in a public form, but there are millions of people in the government with access to those numbers. No matter what you do, there is always a risk. There’s a point where trying to be hyper private goes to far.

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