How Important Is Privacy?

Privacy as it relates to social media is a hot-button issue. How much you share, who can see your data, and how the social media companies use what data they collect? These are all problems that concern us every day.

Privacy or convenience?

But even beyond our social media presence, we have been trading privacy for convenience regularly over the years.  Credit card companies, for example, can track you geographically via your card usage, as well as knowing how you spend your money. We accept this intrusion into our lives because it keeps us from having to carry cash or to write checks.

As technology advances, the ability for companies or governments to know more about us has increased drastically. Our smartphones give us the entire Internet in our pockets, accessible at the touch of a finger. However, the flip side is that we carry a GPS tracking device with us wherever we go.

New artificial-intelligence devices, like Amazon’s Echo or the Google Home system, are enabling new so-called “smart homes”. They can control things like lights, thermostats, and can even be wired to connect to appliances like the stove or the refrigerator. But they also raise some serious privacy concerns, as they could potentially allow companies to listen to everything that happens in your home. It could also make your house susceptible to hackers.

Generations are now being raised with these devices, with their resulting loss of privacy. If you grew up before these devices were introduced, you may feel quite differently about them.

Different people are more comfortable than others regarding sharing their lives. Some have no problem posting every detail of their day to Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or any other social media platform. Others can be quite possessive of their own personal data.

What are the risks?

To be sure, we can see that there can be consequences to this data being collected and shared. With everything from the Snowden revelations to the accusations of targeted election meddling, countries or corporations that do not share your interests or values are abusing data.

Even if you have nothing to hide, if you are not cheating or stealing or deceiving someone, is there a certainly level of privacy that we each need? Are there some things that we need to have just for ourselves, things that we don’t share, even with our closest friends, family, or other loved ones? Or is it a shifting target, subject to social norms?

How important is privacy?

Related questions: Why do we feel the need to belong? How do you know who to trust? What social media platforms do you use? What role does technology play in your life? Freedom or security?

2 thoughts on “How Important Is Privacy?”

  1. While I am a very transparent guy, I’d like to think that I choose what I share about myself. But really that’s a fiction … as is privacy.

    As the context for this week’s question notes, data is not only being collected and saved by one entity for their use (e.g. Target using my purchases to know what coupons or ads to send me in order to get me back into one of their stores), information is being shared — or, more precisely, sold. Why does that matter? Because our personal information, purchases, and internet-activity is worth a pretty penny to the buyers. What is that worth? I don’t know. Do you? I consider that really scary in and of itself.

    Also, the buyers of information, likely collecting my information from multiple sources, may know more about me than I am consciously aware of. Amalgamated, what do my internet searches, viewing history, and purchases say about me? I haven’t the capacity to collect nor analyze that information. But large companies do. That means they know some things about me that I don’t. That too, I think, should fill people with incredible unease.

  2. Being the victim of someone getting my personal information and using it to buy things that I am unaware of.
    Causes me a great deal of suspicion in the world of social networks.
    They have way too much access to my information for my comfort.
    My privacy is completely compromised even if I choose to Google something.
    Anyone who is not very good at knowing what information is safe to share is in alot of trouble.

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