February 03, 2012

Privacy in the Digital Age

Wait, is it still the digital age, or is there a new adjective for the current state of Internet affairs?  I still refer to this age as such, and it aptly fits.  Digital, to me, means something intangible...a semblance of reality that reaches others through a computer, cellphone, etc., and nothing else.  We discuss the state of Internet affairs in public, but the cold, hard stare of the computer screen only translates into an abstract interpretation of reality--or conversely, the cold, hard facts of news blurbs--and not so much an actual gauge of reality, itself.  By "it," I mean real-life; context.

For example, I can post a series of photos on my blog, which can potentially reach millions of people online: well, the millions who have access to the Internet.  For there are millions more who do not have access to the Internet, including these folks.  Honestly, I don't know which is better.  But to get back to my point, the series of photos can be saved onto anyone's computer; the person could attempt to state that the photo is their own, and there could be an entire load of misappropriation in the creative and legal sense.

How could posting a series of photos to document one's life turn into something as bleak as this?  Does it even matter?  And why?

Firstly, for developed nations, the Internet has made privacy, in the traditional sense, a remnant of the past.  Recently, I came across a well-known website that, in my opinion, steals information from public records (which are also now available online).  This site weaves a (semi-accurate) "biography" of an individual from public records--and probably social networking sites.  The disclosure of information feels like a debased breach of privacy, especially when one does not know that this "biography" of oneself is out there for anyone with Internet access, and your name, to see.

So, getting back to the main point of this post, privacy matters because it is the very last vestige of sanity that we can hold onto in this digital age.  Privacy is the one thing that we consciously choose to keep to ourselves, and in this deliberately act of sanity, we cherish it: indiscriminately.  You may call me an alarmist; but I don't think I'm too far from the truth here.  Don't get me wrong, much good has occurred through the Internet, but with this good comes its opposite because there always has to be that antagonistic, ideological tug-of-war in order for society to function.  We cannot control others' actions, but we can be conscious of our own: both in real-life, and in its extension--the Internet.

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