Privacy is but too transient

There is a fundamental dichotomy to human existence. All humans are individual beings, separate and distinct from each other. At the same time, human beings are social animals, and our ability for empathy and the need to communicate make us inextricably linked to one and other. As such, there is a give and take between a person’s privacy as an individual and the parts of themselves they share with the global cyber consciousness.

That dichotomy became more confused and opaque as the turn of the 20th century neared, and it becomes more so as the 21st century progresses. This is solely due to the spread and proliferation of technology, specifically the internet, PCs, smart phones and the advent of IoT. These technologies are on the cutting edge of humanity’s innovation, and they undoubtedly convey amazing benefits to us. The internet is like a benevolent virus; it attaches each point it spreads to every other point it covers. The internet allows information to spread instantaneously from Iqaluit to Pretoria, South Africa. Furthermore, the increasing quality and decreasing cost of personal computers and smart phones allows for an unparalleled increase of people to access this information. As such, humanity as never been more a collective, and individuals have the greatest ability for accessing information and communication than they ever have before in its
history. Human have evolved for being “I” to “we” the concept of privacy is global, it is no longer the right to be alone.

Humanity’s advances in technology and communication undoubtedly convey tremendous benefits. At the same time, however, it presents quandaries and far-reaching issues that must be addressed. Foremost among these is the issue of redefining privacy. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow individuals to create virtual avatars of themselves, complete with their pictures, thoughts, and personal information such as birth dates, phone numbers, relationship status, etc. The capacity for people to create a virtual version of themselves is unprecedented.

This presents serious questions, namely, how does one maintain a sense of privacy when information dissemination is so incredibly pervasive in today’s Canadian culture? We’ve seen celebrities embarrassed when hackers stole nude pictures from their Iphones, regular people fired for offensive tweets or postings on Facebook, and babies whose parents post pictures of them on Instagram all day every day.

The simple answer to this question, unfortunately, is that the only way for a person to maintain some sense of privacy is to sever themselves off from all connected technologies, social media, and the internet. Otherwise, it is inevitable that their privacy will be compromised. A single Google search will be compiled and collated into information about the searcher. It is no longer possible to maintain a complete sense of privacy while participating in 21st century culture.

As such, individuals must acclimate to this new reality. It should become the default expectation that private information about oneself will not remain private forever, whether through hacking, government data collection, or our own desire to communicate with our friends and family. Just as individuals had to acclimate to ringing telephones in the 1950’s and 1960’s, so too must we all today realize that in order to participate in today’s culture, we must sacrifice any and all ownership over our own privacy.

Marc-Roger Gagné