Privacy Rights: Where Do You Draw the Line Between Public-vs-Private?

Unplugged - no computer, no internet, possible?Perhaps the current NSA Spying allegations are not really as big a deal as they are being made out to be.  Or, perhaps they are.

Either way, do we really need to wait for a worst-care-scenario or 100%-undeniable-facts to be presented to us before we re-evaluate what our current privacy expectations are?

Whether “the leaker” is a hero or a traitor, the question remains:  How much do we really care about our Privacy Rights?  We say we care, but do we really do anything substantial about it?

We Give Up Pieces of Our Privacy Every Day

Right now, we can easily look up and find personal information about ourselves and almost anybody else on internet search engines at any time.

Who among us hasn’t joined at least one or two social networking sites somewhere along the line where we willingly reveal personal preferences and private details about ourselves to others?

We have become warily complacent in our trust that the personal information we choose to freely provide at venues-of-our-choice is protected by terms-of-service agreements, strong passwords, firewalls, threat detectors, encryption, and/or self-selected security settings.

It is nothing new that marketers can seamlessly reach us with targetted sales messages based on information they routinely collect about us from various sources and by our own behaviors that reveal our interests, demographics, lifestyles, psychographics, etc.

Many of our actions are already knowingly being monitored by:  traffic intersection cameras, public security cameras, electronic toll-booth records, electronic devices, cell phone location tracking signals, online purchase behavior, internet browsing history, and even offline supermarket loyalty card usage, just to name a few.

After all, could it be true that: “We Asked For This”?

In short, we didn’t trade privacy for security. We traded privacy for convenience.

None of this is new.

What might be more surprising is that, for many of us, what we choose to reveal about ourselves publicly or semi-publicly probably reveals as much or more to others about our attitudes and intentions than what we believe we are protecting and keeping private.

Perhaps we have even become desensitized to what privacy and exercising privacy rights really means?

Who Controls Where The Line Is Drawn?

Certainly, the allegations of this NSA Scandal go way beyond what we, as U.S. citizens, have either directly or indirectly granted permission for others to know about us.

With this almost-made-for-tv-movie Spy-story unfolding, we are now facing a heightened awareness that our privacy rights can and may be violated, or at least are susceptible to unwarranted covert compromise, either by our own government, or, for that matter, even non-government entities, at any time.  That there is a risk of such a thing occurring, that is not anything new.

The uproar is certainly more about the information we choose to not share publicly, i.e., the information we likely most fear being revealed, not because we have anything to hide, but for a perceived potential for mis-use.

So, even if we have become rather careless with much of the personal information we choose to share about ourselves with others, we still have some expectation of control over where we draw our own public versus private line.

Even if we all have different criteria for what personal information is safe to reveal publicly or not, this scandal suggests that we no longer have control over where we draw our own public-to-private information line?

Think About It

If it weren’t for this Scandal, we likely wouldn’t be talking about privacy rights now or any time soon.  Yet, even with this Scandal in the headlines, many people have already moved on.

Regardless of how this particular scandal turns out, what is becoming clear is that, if you know where you draw your own individual public-vs-private information-sharing lines, then you know better when and where to take a stand if that line is crossed.

Privacy isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it policy.  Where are your privacy expectations?  Do you agree that the conversation about personal privacy rights needs to be kept alive?



  1. Excellent point, Helen: “We didn’t trade privacy for security. We traded privacy for convenience.” That principle is true in many areas of our lives … our motto has become “Faster is better.” There are times when my primary desire is to slow down and pay attention. Thank you for an insightful article. When we leave our homes via the open internet, that feeling of privacy — perhaps we are sitting at our desk in pajamas — is really ONLY a feeling, isn’t it … the reality is we have entered the public domain.
    Don Sturgill recently posted…The Roadmap to Freedom: Dream Into ItMy Profile

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