The concept of privacy appears to be disappearing from our society. Thanks to technology and stupidity we’ve all become more exposed than Anthony Weiner’s wiener.
Ever since the book 1984 came out, we’ve been dreading a government-controlled Big Brother-style of mass surveillance. While we have come closer to that dystopian future, let’s face it, our government has been as incompetent at that as it is everything else. Between fighting constant legal challenges and facing formidable whistleblowers, they can barely keep tabs on their enemies, much less the rest of us. I don’t think Uncle Sam is really interested in spying on you and me.
Who is interested in us are criminal hackers and video voyeurs. These days, you never know when you’re being spied on by some deviant who hid a tiny camera in a public restroom or a private hotel room. God only knows what these modern-day Peeping Toms are doing with those recordings of us in our most compromising positions. It’s getting to be you can’t take a shit anymore without worrying about becoming part of some pervert’s personal porn collection or, even worse, going viral on the internet.
How is it that all these beautiful celebrities keep getting hacked and exposed? I know I’m part of an older generation that would never consider sending a naked picture of myself to anyone because it might make them toss their cookies, but even if I was that young and beautiful it’s hard to imagine that I’d be that stupid. We all know those pictures get stored in “the cloud.” Even if we don’t really know what “the cloud” is.
Dating sounds scary in the internet age. From what I hear, sending dick pics is pretty much a requirement for any guy in a relationship these days. It’s kind of like what sending flowers used to be in my day. Plus, I’ve heard too many stories about scorned lovers who publicly shamed their exes on social media with the intimate details of their failed relationships. I can’t imagine the horror of one of my ex-girlfriends lying or, worse, telling the truth about me on the internet. What if they exposed all my bad habits, shortcomings, and sexual proclivities? Not that I have any. But what if I did?
Did you ever Google yourself? It’s not as much fun as it sounds. Almost all of your personal information is out there for anybody who knows how to read. On the Dark Web, you can buy credit card numbers, stolen credentials, and software that helps you break into other people’s computers. You can even hire hackers to attack computers for you. Having to live in an online world makes me feel like Shelly Duvall in The Shining. There’s no place to hide.
Cyber attacks on big corporations happen all the time. Private data for 100 million customers was stolen from Capital One, 327 million from Marriott, and 500 million from Yahoo, just to name a few. I’m one of the last people I know who won’t bank online and still pays my bills by check because I don’t want multiple institutions having direct access to my account. I’m also one of the last people I know with a landline telephone, a VHS player, and a poster of Farrah Fawcett.
Ironically, most of the privacy we’ve lost has been given away more than taken away. We have willingly exposed ourselves to unknown sources and handed over the figurative keys to our literal homes. Because we don’t really have much of a choice. Just about every app, smartphone, security system, and online service we subscribe to come with privacy policies that have pages of fine print terms and conditions that nobody bothers to read and wouldn’t understand if they did.
Our smartphones and online presence give corporate entities everything they need to know about where we are and what we’re doing, tracking our every move and anticipating our every need. They think they’re so clever with their algorithms and analytics reducing us to predictable consumers. The only thing that gives me solace is that they’re wrong more often than they’re right. For some unnerving reason, my wife’s online shopping triggers ads on my Facebook page. (For the record, I only like to look at bras and panties when they’re on women’s bodies.) Netflix thinks it knows what I like to watch. (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? I don’t think so.) My phone thinks it knows where I want to go when I get in my car. (Half the time, I don’t even know where I’m going ’till I get there.) Until I give permission to plant a microchip in my brain, stop trying to get inside my head! Believe me, it’s not a place anyone wants to be.
And it’s not just on the internet. We also lost privacy in our offices, too. The newest trend has been wall-less office space or open floor plans. They’re large rooms filled with rows of long desks that look like giant cafeteria tables where employees sit next to and across from each other with nothing separating them other than their computer monitors. What a delight for the senses it must be to hear, see, and smell the people you work with every minute of every day.
They told us it creates a more productive environment that encourages teamwork and communication. But that’s bullshit. The big bosses still had their private offices. It was just cheaper than building walls and buying doors and it was a lot easier to keep an eye on everyone. Of course, it will be interesting to see how quickly all of that will change in a post-pandemic world. After spending years of trying to cram as many people as possible into the least amount of space, now they’re going to have to spread everyone out as much as possible.
Employers have also been legally monitoring your emails, texts, and sometimes even your phone calls. Many companies make employees sign agreements detailing how any transmission that flows over a work-issued phone or computer is company property, going as far as to record videos of their activities and monitor conference room conversations. I’ve had bosses who bugged me with their micro-managing before, but I’ve never been bugged with a microphone. At least, not that I know of.
So hang on to what little privacy you have left for as long as you can. Like youth, it fades slowly over time so that you barely notice it at first. There’s probably nothing we can do about it, except resist for as long as we can. Don’t submit to your government. Don’t give in to the corporations. Don’t let Big Brother become your closest relative. Don’t blindly click “Agree.” And for God’s sake, don’t send any dick pics!