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Public Privacy

No longer a contradiction in today’s digital age


By: Miriam Sossin


We all know about the abundance of clothing store ads that appear on every tab after a 5- minute browse. We’ve heard that in the spring of 2018, millions of people’s private information was collected by Cambridge Analytica (a data-mining firm with ties to Donald Trump) through the use of apps that users allowed to access their Facebook account. For me, these were the first clues that we had less privacy than we thought we did. What I wasn’t aware of, and what I’m still learning a lot about, is how fast and how intensely we are losing privacy thanks to new technologies, social media, and our lack of action or care to keep it.


After the Facebook scandal, I didn’t change the way I acted on Facebook or any other social media. However, I don’t think it should be my job to do so. My default attitude towards a company as large and powerful as Facebook should not be one of distrust. It’s the responsibility of Facebook, and of all social media and internet applications, to keep user information safe if that’s what they claim to do. Social media outlets are dependent on there being active users, theoretically giving us the upper hand in the crucial conversation of privacy. According to Facebook, they have approximately 1.56 billion daily users (8% more than last year). They continue to preach privacy regulations, but are yet to implement any.


Privacy is essential to our freedom of speech, a feeling of safety, and the way we create relationships and live our lives. After reading the New York Time’s “Privacy Project”, I realized there is quite a bit more to privacy today than I had thought. Sadly, putting a piece of tape over your computer camera does not stop the government or corporations from keeping track of your information (especially with the advances in facial recognition technology that can legally be placed in public spaces). It feels like the internet is lapping us in a race for our privacy that we didn’t know we were running.


The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not mention privacy explicitly, but states in section 7 that “the right to life, liberty and the security of person”, and in section 8 that “the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.” This is comforting to an extent, but in today’s world, social media and the Internet have blurred the lines of what constitutes an unreasonable search. They compound our interests for our benefits, but they’re taking away a level of choice, and as we know from a lot of the political climate of today, their favour of “showing us what we want” is keeping us in a bubble.


Through social media, people can express themselves, create their own unique platform, and speak their views. There’s an overwhelming feeling of: If I don’t post it, did I really do it? It’s an endless dilemma of whether to sacrifice privacy or pride, all in an attempt to prove that we’re having fun. Social media allows people to share their views on a global scale. But if our feeds are only showing us what we want to see, and only extremists are speaking up while everyone else stays silent because of the fear of being labeled, it’s questionable whether intelligible debate will ever truly happen.


Being recognized and seen continuously pulls me to continue using social media. I used to be perplexed as to why artists like Sia, Daft Punk, or MissMe would choose to hide their faces whenever in public. Why not accept the fame and soak it all in? Then it hit me: Privacy.


It’s comforting to be able to go grocery shopping without people photographing you or knowing exactly who you are. More and more artists are attempting to take control of their image, and they’re doing so by creating an identity that makes them unrecognizable without their wig, helmet, or mask.


Privacy is about being able to define who we are on our own terms. The more we become vulnerable to the internet’s collection of our data and pandering to our ‘needs’, the farther away from true privacy, and thus to an extent true freedom, we are. One article in the “Privacy Project” highlighted how privacy boils down to obscurity. Without obscurity, people are too scared to take risks, fail, and ultimately learn from their mistakes because of the reality that these events will never be forgotten. Once something is on the Internet, it’s never really off of it. If this doesn’t scare you, it should. Maybe it’s time to start reading the outrageously long terms and conditions before clicking “I Agree”, and to think about what Alexa and Siri can listen to and collect before we call out their names.



Photo by Glen Carrie/ via: Unsplash

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