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a reasonable expectation

September 29th, 2010 by biscuit

As a general rule, when you go outside, you’ve temporarily forfeited your right to personal privacy. If you’re walking down the street on your cell phone, talking about the affair you’re having, you have no true recourse if someone hears you and informs your spouse. If you throw bank documents into your trash and then put your trash on your curb, you have given other people permission to go through it and sift out things that might be of interest.

I’m not necessarily stating that I embrace this concept. No part of me wants my neighbors sifting through my financial aid paperwork, for example. (My prevention technique is repeated layers of coffee grounds. Enough of them and even the most dedicated sifter will give up and go home. Crockett’s much-less-interesting-but-slightly-more-effective technique is shredding everything.)

The point, I think, is that if you want something to remain a secret, you need to keep it under your control. Don’t want someone to know you were at a certain bar? Wear a hat and a fake mustache, because there will be people there, and some of them might know you, or have camera phones and an itchy tweet thumb. I’ve tweeted images that had strangers in them more than once, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Don’t want love letters falling into the wrong hands? For heaven’s sake, either keep them yourself or burn/shred/coffee soak them.

Can we apply the same rules to privacy on the web? If you don’t want everyone knowing something, can you keep it in an email instead of putting it on a facebook wall? If you want your opinions to stay yours, can you just avoid becoming a blogger?

The public internet has become a place that has no reasonable expectation of privacy. That’s sort of the point.

Is that ok? I don’t know. Do you think so?

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5 Responses to “a reasonable expectation”

  1. Awlbiste says:

    I am on the fence. I feel like if you put something out there well, someone is going to find it eventually, so you know, just don’t do it. But that’s a completely shitty argument in any other realm. Don’t want X, so don’t do Y is dumb.

    But, don’t want someone to someday find pictures of your boobs, so don’t email them to your boyfriend? Sadly that is a legitimate thing on the internet these days.

  2. Steph Lee says:

    We should do away with privacy. How else can I post up naked pictures of us Emma????

    Jokes aside, net neutrality is another issue that is connected to this – sort of the other extreme. Overprivacy, like what Google is trying to do with Google Instant and trying to keep it ‘child safe’.

    I say we find a privacy management consultant (ahheeem I’m available..) or rely on common sense and courtesy. Privacy is all about giving something an extra 2nd thought really.

  3. D says:

    I heard on the NPR this morning that the state of Colorado will, as of tomorrow, be taking cotton swab DNA samples from people arrested for felonies. The ACLU is fighting it. On the one hand it seems logical to take these samples to see if Joe-Ax-Murderer is also the guy who knocked over and stole your granny’s purse. He is, as a felon, already required to allow himself to be photographed and fingerprinted…. is DNA that much different?
    I think (as do the authorities) that many cases will be solved because, let’s face it, criminals are generally involved in more than one crime. There is also the idea that the first time criminal WILL NOT allow themselves to ever do anything again because we’ve got their DNA. Sounds like a winning situation for society.
    What says you?
    BD

  4. biscuit says:

    Ah yes, naked pictures are a totally different category. In the old days all you had to worry about were the negatives – now there is literally no way to make sure every copy is gone.

  5. biscuit says:

    If everyone in the world were awesome, this would totally work. Too bad some people are asshats.

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