Don’t you laugh at the headline! It’s a great final tip to remember as we close this newsy series on technological threats to our personal privacy.
The headline is based a true story: This spring, a woman who apparently conducted herself as a perfectly modest employee by day—but enjoyed posting what she thought was an anonymous sex blog by night—got tripped up by a glitch in the Twitter system. Exposed by her boss in a fairly simple online search, she was fired on the spot. Inc. Magazine’s Courtney Rubin gives an overview of that real-life story.
Please, look through our 5 stories this week, which range from General McChrystal and Rolling Stone to cell phone surveillance at school (to combat the rising tide of cyber bullying among students) and even cell phone surveillance as you shop. This whole series is sure to spark discussion among friends, in your class or small group. And, if you do tell your friends about this series, encourage them to come back to www.OurValues.org and add their own comments.
Remember: Privacy is power. If there’s any doubt that privacy is a measure of individual power, the fact that so many entities want a slice of your privacy, and are even willing to trade you or pay you for it, ought to show what a valuable commodity it is. No matter how you view the outcome, it’s important to remember that the controversial Roe v. Wade abortion decision of the Supreme Court was made in a privacy case, not a medical or criminal one. Again and again, privacy has been a powerful force in American life.
Yet we live in a world that offers more and more privacy snares, one that requires serious education efforts to help individuals preserve their dignity as the “Think Before You Post” campaign has been doing for young people. As YouTube commenter “Rahmannoor” remarks: “Once something is online … there really is no turning back.”
The consequences of lost privacy are stark, and not just in the case of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. James Fallows, in a string of Atlantic Monthly posts, pans the Washington Post’s firing of David Weigel “after some of his reckless private emails were leaked.” Weigel had been covering conservative politics as a journalist, but mocking individual conservatives on a private listserv.
Now, when cases arise like the woman who enjoyed sex blogging in her personal life, we might not feel much sympathy for these outings. But who among us could stand if our deepest admissions, our silliest hobbies, our jokes—out of context—suddenly spilled onto the computer screen of a boss, a professional peer or a competitor.
So what do you think of our brave new world of privacy?
Is it still a right?
Is it still even possible?
TIM MORAN is a longtime freelance journalist whose work has appeared in national publications. Tim has written about a wide variety of topics, with concentrations in business, technology, and automotive subjects. He is a second-year graduate student at Wayne State University where he is studying history, a lifelong passion.
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