Monday, June 18, 2012

Privacy is so 20th Century

One consequence of writing a blog is that people read it. (OK, not a lot of people.) I wrote about my trip to Bolivia a while back only to realize that one of the teenagers I mentioned may have read it. After quickly making sure what I said was OK, I starting thinking about the loss of privacy due to technology. I’m aware of how much data on me corporations have. While I try to minimize that, it doesn’t bother me too much that they know what I like to buy or do. I'm more concerned with what individuals know about me.

The younger generations seem to care much less about privacy. After all, look what people will say (and show) on Facebook and Twitter. I avoid saying much on Facebook and avoid Twitter entirely. But, now I am writing a blog. I worry about posting blog entries when I’m out of town. Why let the world know I’m cruising in the Mediterranean until I’m safely at home? Is that paranoia or prudence? How can I even be concerned about privacy when I write about myself? Such are the privacy questions we all face.

I came up with the title of this blog to indicate that privacy may be a concept whose time is passing. While doing a little research on privacy, I started to doubt that privacy was something we always had and just recently starting to lose. Instead, privacy may have been largely a 20th Century concept. 

For all that we consider privacy an American right, it is either vague or non-existent in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights protects us from unreasonable search and seizure which some interpret to include privacy. That is hardly a strong indication of a right to privacy. Further, privacy may well not have been what the framers had in mind at all. I’m not aware of the Bible really talking about privacy, though there are some negative references to things done in secret. 

My feeling (admittedly, not extensively researched) is that privacy would have been a fairly foreign concept to most people in most times in history. Most people did not have the luxury of private rooms and spaces to make privacy as easy as it is today. Small communities are generally thought of as places where everyone knows everyone's business.

Why do we value privacy? It seems that privacy should not be so important if we don’t have things to hide. I wonder if the ability to hide things encourages bad behavior. I'd love to know your thoughts or if you are aware of any good resource materials on this topic.

Regardless, I think that privacy is fading in the 21st Century. Maybe the lack of privacy is a new phenomenon or maybe that is a return to the way things used to be. For the moment, I plan to be more private than most, get used to privacy being less than it was when I was growing up, and study more about what level of privacy we ought to have according to the Bible and the Constitution.

I guess I should be grateful that not many folks will read this!

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