Is there such a thing as privacy online?

12798838183_88d8613344

Photo Credit: davidwenell via Compfight cc

It seems to me the answer to this is pretty simple:  No.  With very, very few exceptions–it seems that anything you do on the internet should probably be something you would do in a public park with children present.  If you don’t believe me, you might want to check out John Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden.

I am somewhat obsessed with mind-mapping/graphic-organizing (example 1, example 2, example 3), so I thought I’d look for the proverbial nail, to which I will apply my ever-present proverbial hammer: (this time, using MindMup)

Part of me wants to do battle with The Man (i.e. follow the Tor-using Person Of Interest path above) and part of me just wants to  throw my hands up and says, “Fine!  You win!  The services you are offering are worth the privacy I am giving up”.   Customized retail experiences?  Bring it on.  A medical care provider that has a truly comprehensive picture of my health (even if it is an involuntary picture)?  That sounds pretty helpful, actually.  Speeding through security lines because the government has already been sifting through my Internet usage?  Well, a bit uncomfortable, but I do hate taking off my shoes….

11994843374_9fbfc4e5a7

Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos via Compfight cc

As for our students–well, I’d like to ask them.  Over the next week, I’ll ask them some questions such as:

-Is there any difference between the privacy you expect in normal life, vs. your online life?

-Do you care if your favorite social media platforms are archiving, processing and selling your most personal information to commercial and governmental bodies?

-What benefits do you receive by giving so much personal information to these commercial and governmental bodies?

I might also ask them, “If you were to try and disappear completely, how would you do it?”  I bet many of them would really enjoy this conversation, which would lead naturally to Evan Ratliff, who attempted to vanish from public view.

Thinking and writing about this topic feels a lot like discussing the Middle East peace process.  So many moving parts, conflicting interests, and accidental-steps-foward leaves one thinking we are really just along for the ride.  Our choices feel constrained and insignificant and lead to a sense of fatalist apathy.  I’m choosing to let it go.