This prank could easily be me and the scary part is that it could actually not be a prank . . .
I now realize that in many ways I have been operating on the internet similar to how I interact with people. I assume positive intent. I assume I can trust someone until I have some reason not to. I assume that personal information about me doesn’t travel beyond our conversations. I know, a lot of assumptions here which could be considered naive or it could be seen as optimistic. Either way this week’s readings have given me pause to think about if this is the approach I actually choose. The key here is that whatever I decide I want my privacy to be online, I want to decide that. (Similar to the closing remarks in the Ted talk by Eli Pariser, posted by Kim).
Eli’s talk linked me to this Ted Talk by Gary Kovacs which helped me to visualize how I am being tracked online and to see how far reaching this issue goes beyond simply what I post on Facebook.
Once I realized the extent of online privacy, which was eye opening by the way, I immediately went to the next step. If this is the current reality (and I know I am not going to forego the internet) then what choices do I have regarding my privacy?
For me, two things floated to the surface in response to this question:
1. Be more aware.
2. Redefine privacy.
I couldn’t help but wonder if part of this issue may be in how we define privacy. I assume most of us are defining privacy in the traditional sense as our ability to control or determine what and how information is shared about ourselves. But it seems to me that with the new reality of how our personal information and preferences are being tracked online, we may need to shift our definition. In the post Beware: The Internet Could Own Your Future, Husna Najand writes, “We have come to a point where Internet privacy rights are eroding while simultaneously, the line between our private lives and the public persona are blurring.” To me, this indicates that a change in thinking needs to occur. Jeff Utecht writes about just such a shift in his post on Privacy where he states, “We’re in a time period where we as a society are trying to figure out how much privacy we’re willing to give up. We benefit from giving up our privacy but it’s also a scary concept.” He goes on to say, “. . . privacy looks very different these days than it did a short while ago. That doesn’t mean that privacy doesn’t exist…it does. It just means you start with public. Everything you do is public and you work backwards from there. That’s a mind shift from where we were even just 15 years ago. Where we all started thinking our lives were private and we got to decide how public they were. That’s not the case! The moment you signed up for Facebook, bought a cell phone, or signed into an email account…..you became public.” Here Jeff advocates that our lives are public automatically as a default and therefore privacy has now become something we must create and advocate for individually.
There is a lot to think about with this topic both in regards to personal choices online but also to how those choices can impact our professional lives. I get the feeling that this week has only scratched the surface. In the end, maybe the simplest advice to follow is . . .