An Unreasonable Expectation of Privacy

We live in a social world. Knowing a bit of something about someone has always carried with it a certain level of perceived power. The more private that something is, the more power the monitoring entity thinks is at stake. The fact that someone is monitoring someone else at all times shouldn’t surprise you at all. People are nosy, as a result, organizations are nosy as well. Curiosity is a basic factor in our makeup.

I’ve written about the issues regarding social media before. In fact, I made a specific post about the dangers of online social media in my Social Networking Traps post. Of course, none of this means that I think people or organizations are correct in monitoring others. What I’m saying is that the monitoring will occur whether it’s correct or not, legal or not. Yes, we could (and should) pass laws to reduce any organization’s (including the government’s) ability to use knowledge gained during unauthorized snooping against us, but the fact is that the snooping will continue unabated until there are no humans left to snoop.

It isn’t as if any of this is new. Reading history (any history) shows that people, organizations, and governments have snooped for all of recorded history. In a best case scenario, the snooping was offset by the institution of laws that limit the use of snooping. However, even then, some level of snooping has always been allowed. Legal snooping whitewashes the act and makes it appear legitimate, but in reality, it’s still snooping.

Of course, some snooping has paid off in the form of reduced crime or possibly the saving of someone’s dignity, but by and large snooping does more harm than good. Unfortunately, the damage done by snooping will continue. Whether it’s the government prying into our affairs or a neighbor who is keen on hearing about an indiscretion, someone will be monitoring you at all times.

There is one perfect answer to all this. If you want to keep something secret, then don’t tell anyone about it. People are unlikely to follow the advice. We’re social and we just have to tell someone. The second a secret, any secret, leaves our lips, the expectation of privacy should go down. The more people we tell (or are told by those we tell), the less secret something becomes until there is no expectation of privacy at all.

In this day of computers that can record anything perfectly and electronics that can snoop anywhere, it’s reasonable to expect that the government (or some other organization) is snooping on you. What will need to happen is that we’ll have to limit the ability of organizations to use the information obtained from snooping to harm others. The snooping will take place, but we can make it harder to use that information in a destructive manner.

Technology has brought us a considerable number of positives—everything from longer lives to being able to use those lives more fully. However, as users of technology, we have to keep in mind that it has always been easier to destroy than to create. The very technology that enables us to do so many interesting things is just as easily turned against us. What we need to do now is exercise vigilance and use technology wisely. Just as you wouldn’t stick your hand in a fire on the stove, but would use that same fire to cook your food, you need to use technology for the positive purposes for which it was designed. Let me know your thoughts on snooping at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Author: John

John Mueller is a freelance author and technical editor. He has writing in his blood, having produced 99 books and over 600 articles to date. The topics range from networking to artificial intelligence and from database management to heads-down programming. Some of his current books include a Web security book, discussions of how to manage big data using data science, a Windows command -line reference, and a book that shows how to build your own custom PC. His technical editing skills have helped over more than 67 authors refine the content of their manuscripts. John has provided technical editing services to both Data Based Advisor and Coast Compute magazines. He has also contributed articles to magazines such as Software Quality Connection, DevSource, InformIT, SQL Server Professional, Visual C++ Developer, Hard Core Visual Basic, asp.netPRO, Software Test and Performance, and Visual Basic Developer. Be sure to read John’s blog at http://blog.johnmuellerbooks.com/. When John isn’t working at the computer, you can find him outside in the garden, cutting wood, or generally enjoying nature. John also likes making wine and knitting. When not occupied with anything else, he makes glycerin soap and candles, which comes in handy for gift baskets. You can reach John on the Internet at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. John is also setting up a website at http://www.johnmuellerbooks.com/. Feel free to take a look and make suggestions on how he can improve it.