The Paradox of Privacy

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.  You can’t both possess it and enjoy it.  In it’s most literal sense —  once you eat the cake in its entirety, you no longer “have” it in the same way that you once did.

In this age of social media, the outcry for privacy in light of the recent NSA Prism scandal interests me.  Whatever details come to light, I do not agree a willingness on the part of information-holding sites to impart information to any entity without my consent.  In this particular case, I’m not sure the ends will ever justify the means.  But at the same time, there is a glaring truth that I can’t ignore.

Social media, in its truest sense for the individual, is broadcasting information about oneself to other individuals, to the world.  Have you ever posted photos?  When you do, you are telling the world certain things about you — the food you enjoy, they way you spend your leisure time and where you spend it, who your friends and family are, what new possessions you enjoy, where you’ve been and where you’d like to go, and recently, on Facebook, you can share any number of “inspirational quote” snippets that reveal your preferences, thoughts, beliefs, and cultural attitudes.  What’s interesting is, just by following or looking up someone on Facebook, I can get to know them in at least a superficial sense within minutes.  Of course, unless an individual really opens up in a very honest way, I won’t be able to know his deepest, truest thoughts and fears and hopes and on and on. But his life is no longer as private as he might have believed.  Privacy is a transaction — the more you keep to yourself, the more private your life.  The more you present yourself to the world, the less private.

Ever heard about the people that post when they’re on vacation only to come home to find they’ve been robbed?  Privacy eluded them.  On the flip side, a guy posts a video from a security cam on Facebook that shows an intruder attempting to rob him and asks for help identifying said intruder.  He sacrificed part of his privacy that was already being invaded so that he could help protect his own privacy.  Sweet Moses — that’s a pickle!  I’d call that a paradox — sacrificing privacy in order to protect it.  But it all comes down to qualification, right?  You’re choosing what you want to protect about yourself.  In the case of the intruder, the guy wanted to protect his possessions and the security and privacy of his home.  Though he gave several hundred (maybe more) a glimpse into his home by posting such a thing on Facebook to be shared by a network of his friends with their friends and their friends’ friends and so on.

As far as I understand it, the NSA is not actively watching my Facebook or recording my phone calls.  It seems the NSA is targeting hostiles and potential terrorists (always room for error in such a search, I believe).  Still, I think back to my own Facebook and Twitter accounts, and now the blog to which I’ve been posting.  I have willingly doled out parts of myself to my friends and those beyond my sphere of “knowing”.

Maybe that’s the point:  I got to choose what I doled out, which is, perhaps, having my cake.  But thanks to the vastness and interconnectedness of the internet, I didn’t get to choose who saw all those tidbits of Josh.  I suppose that’s why I don’t get to eat the cake, too.

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