October 30, 2009
It’s hard to be a teenager and get away with anything these days. Parents can determine from the phone bill who the teens have texted and when. Parents can even read the teen’s text messages if the phone is left unattended. Parents can see e-mail messages, check what web sites have been visited, and stalk their kids via Facebook.
In some cases the parents can already track their kids via GPS devices in cars and phones. You know that trend will increase.
Yes, teens have countermeasures and workarounds. But that’s a lot of effort, and it’s hard to hide all the electronic clues of, for example, an unapproved association. Even if you hide all of your own electronic footprints, you could still pop up on someone else’s Facebook page.
This got me thinking about privacy issues in general. Most people reflexively believe privacy is a good thing, and a lack of privacy is a bad thing. But what if privacy creates more problems than it solves?
Let’s say you have a secret carnal desire for broccoli. In our current world, where privacy is still somewhat attainable, you hide your dirty little broccoli secret. If anyone were to find out, you’d be ostracized and mocked. So you carry your little secret around like a bag of shame, sneaking trips to the grocery store to get a fix.
Now imagine a world where no one has any privacy and your inappropriate desire for broccoli becomes common knowledge. Suddenly all the other broccoli lovers know you are one of them. You start hanging out together, sharing your broccoli stories. You make new friends. You are understood. It’s a relief in many ways.
In a world with no privacy, no one will seem like a freak because so many people will appear to be one type of deviant or another. In that world, the biggest losers would be the people who have totally uninteresting flaws and passions. They would seem boring.
Like it or not, that world is probably coming.