Privacy and the Digital Lifestyle

In light of the PRISM leaks, and the revelations of the National Security Agency, we’ve all been hearing about the modern concerns regarding privacy, specifically within our digital lives. To those who may have not been paying attention for the past decade, these revelations may come as a surprise, but not for millennials. I’ve only ever been taught to keep my social security number private and secure, which may come to a surprise for some people. My address, my phone number, my likes and dislikes, my tastes and my turn-ons can all be found online for anyone with a reasonable enough (and I do mean Google search level reasonable here) aptitude. It’s all voluntary, and so far, it has all been to my benefit.

I don’t create a new log in, password, or user name every time I want to create a new account online. Instead, every time I log onto a site that requests my Facebook permissions, Google, Twitter, or whatever, I’m signing over the information I keep with those sources for the sake of convenience. Now, that isn’t so much of a problem when I can easily remove my permission and take control of my data. For most privacy advocates I bump into, that’s all they really want: the ability to say ‘enough’. I only have three or four accounts which are my keys to the web, thanks to embedded Google / Facebook / Twitter sign-in protocols. Does that mean I’m signing away my information? It does, if I had believed it was private in the first place.

For the majority of us, we are content to share our information with those companies or persons who may be interested, because most of it we have already written off as public. Addresses aren’t secret, being published in phone books and directories for decades. My phone number isn’t a secret, as it’s on my business cards, and any social network or web application that supports double-authentication already has it. As the recent PRISM leaks have shown us, digital privacy may be an all but impossible goal in the long run, and if we are to live digitally, it will be within a digital panopticon of surveillance.

So, what is the value of digital privacy anyway? All of my information is already available on the internet, and if I choose to release bits and pieces, I am rewarded with convenient login tools, websites that can translate my content across different mediums and even coupons for lunch. My generation is less and less apt to demand privacy. Instead, we want control of our data. To us, social networks online can be just as real as those connections made in real life, when sitting in front of another. In fact, as anyone who’s ever tried online dating can attest to, sometimes it’s just easier to be honest to your computer screen compared to another face.

And that’s just it. For all of the hoaxes, phishing scams and fears placed into us by the media or those who came before us, we are more willing and more able to trust someone over a computer screen than someone in front of us. Maybe, it’s just because we can examine them from the comfort of our own homes.