If what we are told is true—if privacy is dead—one central question remains: who killed it? In this essay, I suggest we are all to blame.
Free is not an option
Nothing is for free, everybody knows that. We’ve let the beauty of the Internet fool us. We thought that everything would be freely accessible for everyone, preferably forever. It’s not.
It takes skill and resources to create Internet technology, social media, websites, apps. Unless the service is understandably based on donations, there are only two options: the customer pays directly or somebody else does. This somebody else is often an advertiser, but they expect something in return.
Personal data is the new currency
Let’s stop being naive and start facing up to the fact that our data is the new currency. Internet companies use data to monetize their products, plain and simple. We looked the other way while the cloud sucked up our data, yet we act shocked when we realize that the companies who’ve been paying to store our information actually start using it. Can it really be a surprise?
After using Twitter for years to share our own content without paying a cent for the tool (and without showing any interest in how the company subsists financially), we complain about annoying ads showing up in our feed. We have waited for a fait accompli to start worrying about our privacy. Twitter’s intent to make money was never a secret. People don’t live on love alone, companies don’t either.
Since when is a dollar too expensive?
We are familiar with the value of a pound of carrots but we have a lot to learn about the price of the Internet. In the meantime, if you are privacy sensitive, you should support firms that try to find other business models and don’t be so reluctant to pay a dollar for an app, or even five.
Mass exhibitionism, we love it
On this charge, I plead guilty—and many of you probably should, too, if you’re being honest. Social platforms wouldn’t be the hit they are if privacy was something we cared about as a society. Facebook wouldn’t have more than a billion users if its main features weren’t to allow individuals to spy on other people’s lives.
The truth is, we chose to kill privacy so that we could revel in the high level of online exhibitionism of others, sometimes people we don’t even know, and sometimes ourselves. This seems to be human nature. We are curious about other life stories but most of all we love to play hide and reveal.
Ridicule is not fatal
As selfies pop up like mushrooms on the web, the selfie app Shots reached one million users. Selfies are everywhere—they make us laugh, cry, or smile—they create emotions and build a social construct where ridicule is not fatal. Yes, we are more public than ever and this is because the Internet gives us the space to show off our individuality.
Reveal and mask
In fact, publicness and privateness are two sides of the same coin, the former allowing the latter to become a trend. We kill privacy when it suits us and hide behind it when “the Cloud” threatens. I suggest we stop acting so scandalized and start being more active to make sure we—and the generations to come—have the option to curate our own reveal to mask ratio as we see fit.