Letting Go of Privacy

Is there such a thing as privacy online?

Photo Credit: davidwenell via Compfight cc

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….

Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos via Compfight cc

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.


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16 Responses

  1. Hi Ryan,
    I find myself struggling with this topic because it is so complicated. I hate that nothing is private, but I love the ease of use. I really don’t like the idea that searches are based on information they have collected on me, but I love that a ton of information is at my fingertips within about 20 seconds (which will be an eternity shortly I am sure). But like you, I just think this is the world we live in now and I either need to go ‘off grid’ or let it go. And quite frankly, the grid is so easy to use, it is so comfortable, and everyone is on it. I can’t imagine a time without it. Even though I don’t put in a ton of information on Facebook (I don’t put my high school, etc) or other social media, I know that they know so much about me just by what I like. I don’t even go on Facebook that much anymore but still, they have data on me and this freaks me out.

    But what I wonder, do students who grew up with no privacy even understand that they have no privacy? My guess is not so much. I remember when I was trying to discuss keeping information private online, my students just didn’t seem bothered that they were being ‘watched’ and ‘tracked’. So I switched it so something a bit more personal. I asked them if it would be okay if I went into their bedrooms and looked at all of their things and then put it out on the front lawn. Some students were horrified and others didn’t seem to mind. So I asked if I could publish their dairies, journals, or math grades for everyone to see and there were some that were horrified and a few that were like, meh. I just think my students (grade 5) could grasp the idea on such a large level. To be honest, I am not even sure what this means.

    Living in a foreign country, I am super careful what I post about the country that I am living in. Firstly, I want to be respectful, but also, I know the government is watching everyone… including me. Understanding that I am being tracked, that the government is looking for key words – I censor myself online. Smart or cowardly? Respectful or afraid? I hate to think I am giving into The Man, but The Man’s house is everywhere. How do I avoid it?


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