"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Privacy .... does it still exist?

As human beings we want to put ourselves out there, social media, blogs, e-mail, texting ..... it is a way to connect to other human beings, a way to feel we belong, a way to express ourselves and feel important. But is anything private anymore?

I began pondering this because I have to admit it, I am a Zynga junkie ... Farmville, Frontierville, Cafe World, etc. I know that there are people who spend lots of money on these game, I am not one of them, but I like to play and I play often. It bothered me at first that they wanted access to my basic information, but I understood that it was a marketing thing, and my profiles are really not that detailed. Then they wanted access to my friends list, and I said ok to that, I figured my friends could easily block the application if they wanted to. Then some games wanted access to my photos, and then my friend's profile information, and the latest request (not a request really because you can't play the game unless you grant the permission) is that they have access to your newsfeed and access to post on your wall whenever they want.

So, I will be deleting Zynga from my facebook world and I will be joining a Zynga support group (if you know of a good one please let me know). I also have been posting my anger and frustration all over the Zynga application pages and in my newsfeed and now in my blog.

Facebook has created an atmosphere where people say and do things they would never have say if it had to be done face to face or even over the phone. I will never understand people who air their dirty laundry and family problems in their newsfeeds. I saw a woman the other day tell everyone about her daughter's bad choices and her anger about those choices. Does everyone really need to know that this girl cheated on her finance with a married man she is now living with. And how do I now look either this woman or her daughter in the eye, now that I am in on what would have been called a "family secret" not to many years ago? Do I become involved by commenting and tell this woman how awkward she has made me feel .... or is that sharing too much? The faceless world of the internet has indeed created a place where people can say anything they want to whomever they want .... without regard to privacy or hurt feelings. I wonder if that was what Mark Zuckerberg had in mind when he envisioned The Facebook.

I am not naive enough to think that my world is that nice private one that I grew up in. Where neighborhood news was only spoken about over fences and it took days for gossip to travel. Where my secrets were kept in a locked journal. I understand that people can find out almost anything they want about me. There is a webpage spokeo.com, they collect public data and post it as a profile. I have removed my profile twice already. I am in the process of trying to help my parents remove their profile (you need e-mail confirmation and my dad doesn't even have e-mail). While I understand all of this is public data, I want people to have to work to get my information (the cost of my house, my religion, how much I make a year, etc). I don't want them to be able to just do one simple search - this is how identity theft has become so easy. It isn't even work anymore.

I also understand that if the US Government wanted to, they could know absolutely everything about me, down to how much I spend in groceries and where I shop. But I am not a conspiracy theorist and I really don't think that they are they are that interested in my life. Now, if I were to expand my garden and I suddenly purchased a large amount of fertilizer, I would expect my name to show up on a list. And while I understand the fear, I always have the words of Benjamin Franklin in the back of my mind "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Where do we draw the line? When do we say enough is enough? When do the lists the US Government has become the lists Hitler had? Who defines a person as a terrorist? And who decides what is done with the list once it is compiled?

I have been watching my favorite all time show on Netflix, MI5 (Spooks if you are in the UK), and it amazes me the number of cameras they have pointed at their citizens. If you sneeze, someone, somewhere knows about it. As I see more and more cameras at intersections I wonder how long it will be before the US government can follow me from my home, while I go to work, while I do my errands. How far off was George Orwell really?

So, we as humans put ourselves out there .... in the abyss of the Internet. We have no idea who is looking for us, or at us. In the end I think deleting the Zynga games will be a good thing. I can start that novel, download the photo software I got for Christmas and start editing my nature photos, start crafting again. Do the things that used to give me joy before the desire to update my every move and spend my time staring into a screen. ....... but I will still find time for the blog, at least I get to control what information I share here.

And perhaps maybe I will post it on Zynga's page ..... not that they would care.


  1. I totally agree with all the points you've made here. Facebook at least lets you control who sees what on your page, but those are profiles we create ourselves. As far as I'm concerned, Spokeo.com should be illegal, public record or not. Someone shouldn't have access to my personal information for what was it, $35! As someone who has been on the internet for a long time, and is working on branding herself for future projects, I put myself pretty far out there. However, no one - not even the government - should be able to create a profile about me without my express permission. If someone searches my name online, the only information that comes up should be information I have personally put online. END OF STORY.

  2. Some people just don't understand privacy... Or the idea that maybe, just maybe, they are misinformed, and in turn, are spreading not only personal, but false information. One can only hope the people that see that information smeared all over the internet are smart enough to form their own opinions of ant information given - personal or otherwise! :)