“You mean you don’t have your iPhone password protected?” My friend asked me.
“Um…well, you see…”
“They will steal that shit up and you will be left in the dark, man.”
Okay. It was decent way to start off my NYE on a car ride down to Chicago.
And my friend has had his laptop stolen, so there’s that. He’s paranoid.
Honestly, as a child of the 80s, the privacy conversation never got me into a Ron Paul head-bang (we were scared of the Russians, not each other). But, I’d never really thought about it. And now that I am, it somehow means even less to me.
Let’s think about Internet privacy as, say, Freud and psychoanalysis would think about the subconscious—particularly those dirty details of being scorned as a child because you didn’t get the toy you wanted. And maybe the toy was conveniently phallic-shaped. Ok, still with me?
Now, what do the psychoanalysts say?
Release it. Talk about it. Confront and POOF! It’s gone. Once the taboo has been spoken, we are released from its hold.
Same thing with photos of you drinking last NYE or that love letter you wrote and published to Facebook to your girlfriend back in 2006 while high. Only by attempting to coerce your background into hiding does the nasty thing bite you.
Moreover, everyone’s doing it.
No, I’m completely fucking serious.
What presidential candidate in 2032 or whatever will NOT have revealing photos, a long-abandoned obnoxious blog about cats dressed like stoners, or a video up of him/her from college yelling crude profanities about the basketball team’s poor zone defense?!
People who freak out over the Internet’s invasion of our privacy hold fast to a veneer of individual dignity that has never been honest or accurate.
Okay, I’ll take it another step. Does this mean our public officials or teachers or dentists won’t be true professionals in our eyes? Not at all. It just means we won’t be hiding anymore. Our dentist will be revealed to be a raging Van Halen fan. We’ll know that our teacher had a neck-length beard in his twenties. And we’ll know that our local senator has a thing for shady dime-store novels.
Can corporations use this information against us? Probably. Could the government put us in a secret computer bank? They likely have already. I’m sure it’d be super-easy to counter my argument by providing justification for deeply-entrenched skepticism by way of modern examples (the round-ups beginning the Holocaust, the carte-blanche authority of wire-tapping by the NSA, Facebook advertising Ben Folds on my page, etc…).
But really, recent history has proven that often the “leaking” of information by the Internet does not have a wholly positive or negative effect on authoritarianism—if anything, the Arab Spring shows us the err-toward-emancipatory effect of Twitter, Facebook, social media writ large.
My guess is that jerks who steal our freedom were around before the Internet and will still be finding ways to do it in the future. Like any good neighborhood watch program, the more people on the streets at night walking dogs and talking about Boo or whatever the more we scare off the mucky-mucks. And in the 21st Century, we live on the Internet. It feels sorta self-defeating to mope inside, staring through my blinds at all the fun.