Casting our e-privacy down the digital rabbit hole
Published: Monday, June 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 at 5:21 p.m.
It seems our worst fears concerning privacy are being realized through seemingly daily admissions and news reports.
The government apparently is tracking our calls; hackers are stealing our identities and the companies we trust with our business are selling us out to the highest bidder. Yes, the depth and scope is troubling, but what truly frightens me is realizing just how far down the digital rabbit hole we have gone.
Let's face it; there is no going back. It's too late. None of us are going to trade in our gmail for stamps and envelopes or delete our Facebook accounts and rekindle personal relationships. Evolution is not backwards compatible. There will be no public square gatherings where the masses burn their cellphones.
Am I saying deal with it? No. I am saying as a society we are compelled to deal with it because we categorically reject the thought of going back to the age of “Leave It To Beaver,” where Ward and the clan sat together each night and read the news in print and Wally and the Beaver actually went outside to play.
On the surface, most grievances seem tolerable or preventable, yet taken together; the situation gets exponentially more disturbing. Recently I looked at purchasing a video game from Amazon for my son, and now on every website I navigate there are advertisements for that same game. Likewise, my emails are constantly skimmed by algorithms that scour my conversations in hopes of even more targeted ads.
As a journalist, I was shaken recently when the Department of Justice was called out for listening in on the conversations of reporters. I shared in a recent column how my Google password was compromised by somebody in a developing country. In regards to the NSA keeping tabs on our phone calls, I don't have a bunch of terrorist buddies, but the thought of some little red light going off when I talk to my missionary friends in South Africa gives me pause.
This is quite a long list of privacy grievances. Especially when you consider it a snapshot of the last month. We still get to see what happens later this year when Google Glass hits the streets and users have the ability to photograph and videotape anything in their paths and share the results directly to the Internet. The moniker for these bifocal burdens of privacy has already been defined: glassholes. I bet it sticks.
Where do we go from here? Either move to the Ozark Mountains and pay with cash or get used to the increased tentacles of the web reaching into our lives. Rumors have the next iPhone coming with a fingerprint sensor, which can be good for security to access your phone but troubling for the potential of a national database if Apple divulged that information.
Crazy talk? Apple recently announced it has received 4,000 to 5,000 requests by U.S. law enforcement over the last six months for its customer data. While I don't question that these requests were for legitimate crime-fighting, I question where it ends.
The digital rabbit hole, that is.
For now, it's overwhelming enough to simply wrap our minds around the ramification of our e-lives. In this digital world, passwords and privacy settings are not enough to hide who we are, what we're doing and with whom we're doing it. It doesn't take a bloodhound to track our digital footprints, just a motivated person, a smartphone and a WIFI signal. Clearly, our intentions alone have value to thieves, creeps, retailers and apparently governments. There are no 911 numbers to call or deadbolts to protect our digital selves. The shades are open to anyone who really wants to know our intentions.
Makes you start to hum that old “Leave It To Beaver” theme song, huh?