R.I.P. Personal Privacy

As many know, we are now living in an incredibly crucial point in time due to the drastic advancements in digital technologies that are taking place. With the invention of the internet in the 90s, our society has gradually become more informed and well-connected than it has ever been in the past. That being said, although technology and the internet have benefited us in countless ways, in doing so it has rewritten the guidelines of our national security and taken away our fundamental rights to personal privacy. At first glance, the internet seemed as a useful tool that could help us find information about anything we wanted. What we didn’t realize was that anything we did on the web could be stored, analyzed and used for those in power to survey our every move. Historically as a nation we have always placed a tremendous amount of trust in our government and national security, but with the rapid rise in usage of the internet and all of its wonders, we essentially have given away the key to our personal privacy. With every ad click, Google search, or website subscription, our personal data is stored and analyzed so that the people in power, like the United States government, can learn every detail possible about us.

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We Are Data by John Cheney-Lippold

In his novel We Are Data, John Cheney-Lippold discusses this idea of loss of privacy due to data and algorithms used by people in power. He explains how at first we were blind to the fact that those we trust so much would spy on our nation to this extent, but it wasn’t until 2013 when Edward Snowden first unveiled the truth to the public as to how our every move was being recorded and watched. At the time, Snowden was working for the NSA and once he realized the extent of this breach in national security–by our own government–he boldly made the move to leak classified documents, revealing how the government was really using our data to spy on our every move. This was a historic point in time because now everyone was aware that any sense of personal privacy we previously had was gone. In an interview with NBC, Snowden discusses how theoretically, this information gathered about us without our consent can be manipulated and used in any situation possible. He states:

“These activities can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, and used to harm you as an individual even without the government having any intent to do you wrong” (Cheney-Lippold 156)

This data collection is a new form of control that we have never come across in the past. It allows those in power, from our government to giant tech companies like Google and Facebook, to keep us as puppets, giving them the ability to mold how we look as individuals all through the data they find. Because the internet now plays an essential role in every part of our lives, we no longer have the ability to take control of what information is known about us. Unfortunately, our privacy no longer exists due to the internet and looking into the future, it doesn’t seem like this will change. Just recently, news broke that Facebook had been secretly allowing third-party companies access to millions of users data and personal information. This is just another example of how we have completely lost the right to personal privacy as users in the digital age. 

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Photo by Brian Solis

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg even has stated that “privacy is no longer a social norm” (Cheney-Lippold 207). Our right to privacy has dramatically changed over time, and looking towards the future it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Now even though we can’t change this unfortunate, new social norm, we should all try and be more conscious of what we do online. Being more aware of our search habits, reading the fine print of privacy agreements, and taking note of what we post on social media can begin the process of protecting ourselves in this vulnerable, digital age we live in.

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