Monday, August 11, 2008

Displaying One's Privates

Last week's blog talked about control and this blog is going to talk about why I might want control. Anyone who knows me might get the mistaken impression that I am a control freak. I don't know why that is, but leave it for now.

My friend Terri teaches a college-level constitution course and she tells me it's amazingly difficult to explain to people why you need the 4th amendment. Invariably, one of the students says "If you haven't done anything wrong, what do you care if you are searched?" Fortunately for her, it's almost always a woman, and so Terri gives the standard answer, which is, "Ok, I'm an employee of the State. Empty your purse right now so I can check it out." Although I don't have anything incriminating in my purse, there really is only so much I want the general public to know about my personal hygiene.

The constitution doesn't explicitly protect the right to privacy (for those of us living in a country with a constitution); but even if we didn't have a right to privacy, there are some things that are intrinsically private. Nobody can go inside your mind and find out just how close you got to throwing your 3-year-old out the window, for example. And even a dedicated FB user does not have to fill in the blank for "We hooked up and it was ___" even if we did and it was (or wasn't).

And yet...

When people start to twitter, you get a granular accounting of their life. When people upload photographs with name tags, you know exactly what parties your friends didn't invite you to. When you watch what someone diggs or deliciouses, you start to get an idea of whether they are moonlighting or thinking about a new startup, and in what field. Tracking who is friending who on what network? How about whether your spouse added the "Hot or Not" application or found a new match on the blind date app? (What are married people thinking when they add these apps?)

So about my privacy. I am realizing that some of my casual friends and colleagues could make some pretty good guesses about what I do with my social life, or with my spare time. I'm relatively aware regarding how public this information is, and still, I probably rely more on "people don't have time to snoop" than the reality of how easy it would be for them to do so.

Forget about my right to privacy. What about my right not to know? What if I don't want to know my nephew's hottness rating? Who my mother-in-law is hooking up with? Which of my friends are going out to dinner without me? Who can afford a nicer mobile device than the one I've got?

Yes, having privacy would be great; but increasingly I'm thinking I would just settle for not having a public display of everyone else's private parts.

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