As we continue to create an online world the protection of privacy has become a hot topic amongst tech companies, politicians and the general public. The concern for protecting privacy has become a source of tension and anxiety amongst companies who rely on large amounts of data such as Google and Facebook. The fact of the matter is that it’s rather disturbing to think that a company is monitoring your every move on the internet and has stockpiles of information about you, for lack of a better word it’s rather creepy. People question if this gradual collapse of privacy is leading us to build a society most of us would rather not be a part of.
The fact of the matter is that we live in a highly networked society meaning we are constantly putting information about ourselves out there for the world to see. That being said privacy is in no way a universal or timeless concept. The term privacy changes based on who you are using the term in regards to and/or the beliefs of the society at large. This is easily demonstrated by the different meanings each society has given the word. In some countries a woman’s face is a private matter, only to be revealed to a select few, in other countries women can reveal vast portions of their bodies. In some social groups sexuality is something to be publicly celebrated while in others it is to be kept private and is deemed inappropriate to discuss. Thus privacy should not be equated with the notions of security or anonymity. Privacy should be thought of as the ability to define oneself as one likes given your surrounding environment, unfortunately this is something that nobody really has power over anymore.
When we choose to converse with somebody in a public spot our conversation is private in the sense that it’s only between two people but public because we’ve chosen to carry the conversation in a place where people can see and over here. On the internet our conversations are public because the internet is so closely monitored by big companies despite our efforts to converse privately. While individuals have attempted to take measures to keep themselves private by only releasing some information, deleting accounts and creating them under different names, or by obscuring the truth, their efforts will likely not be enough.
Everyone in the industry believes that some form of regulation is coming and is likely coming rather soon. The real question is what will the regulations look like. Ideally all those involved will strive to reach a level of total understanding of internet usage and data usage in order to allow individuals to use the internet as they please and in order to allow internet based companies to remain largely successful while still allowing individuals to control what information is released.