I subscribe to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Spotify, and a host of other websites that ask me to sacrifice my privacy for their use. They ask me to tag my photos, mark my location, and indicate when they were taken. My browser tracks my searches and pushes marketing materials to me. Yes, I looked on Amazon to see if HEPA filters were cheaper there. Now the edges of Facebook alight with advertisements for HEPA filters.
How do I feel about this? Pretty creeped out. If a human being tracked my behavior this closely, I would report him to the police. I’m being stalked. And yet, I keep using these resources. Why? In part, because everyone else is. It’s how I keep in touch with my friends around the country. In fact more and more, it’s how all of us keep in touch. Some articles suggest that sites like Facebook are killing events like the high school reunion. Who needs to go back to a smelly school when a web page can tell you what your high school nemesis is doing?
And with all that, maybe I don’t want everyone to know what I’m doing? Maybe I want to hang onto an outmoded Aristotelian public/private divide that is no longer feasible in this hyper-connected society we live in. Marshal McLuhan described our increasing interconnectedness as a global village. In Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) he writes, “And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence” (32). Like a village, everyone knows your business and you depend on them for your existence.
Is this the world we want to live in? Will we all write in Newspeak someday?
Check out Carnegie Mellon University’s privacy grade website to find out how your apps measure up.