Saturday, March 26, 2011

PRIVACY What’s that? Having things in a box in your closet is more private than anything you use regularly. Long ago there was a phrase used often . We thought we had the right to “the respect for privacy.” People would back off and leave you alone. Now people immediately look further and say , “What are you hiding?” There is no longer a honor of personal boundaries. The famous have it even worse. TMZ will catch you every time you leave your home to go anywhere. How about “good fences make good neighbors?” Your fence might as well be a picture window. There are helicopters and Google satellites to zoom right into your pool without your knowledge. Of course.
We have made a mockery out of the phrase, “Privacy Please.” Now it means, come see what I’ve been doing lately but have somebody pay you for your snooping into my life. When was the last time you worried about your reputation? Whether you care or not, you could have an on-line reputation that can cause you problems because it can be anywhere and can be misleading and definitely cause you problems without your consent or knowledge.
The tangled web of information and miss-information can ruin your livelihood or at least change someone’s perception of you. Your shoebox of stuff is opened and someone else is making up the stories that go along with your trinkets and valued photos. The movie, “The Social Network” was not only about Facebook’s creator but also about privacy or really about the lack of privacy through “Friends” it’s code for tattletalers. Even in Egypt, doctors at the hospitals there were taking pictures of victims and posting them on line before you could give permission even if you wanted to. In a crisis, most people aren’t about sharing so quickly.
We live in an age of full body scans at airports and social networking cites. The pictures were exactly what you would expect from a vacation. Cafés in Italy and Spain, a Guinness brewery in Ireland. Ashley Payne, 24 years old, public high school teacher from Georgia, was not prepared for how these innocent pictures would ruin her life. Her life would not have been ruined if she kept those pictures in a box. In August, 2009, her principal asked to see her. He asked her if she had a Facebook page and if she had any pictures of her with alcohol. Yes there was that picture of her holding a beer on the Guinness tour in Ireland. She was forced to resign from the job she prepared for for all her adult life.
The real problem is that she used the privacy setting on Facebook. She thought that only her closest friends would have access to the pictures. These were not anything profane just personal. Frederick S. Lane is an attorney who wrote “American Privacy.” He said, “All it takes is one person to make a copy of what you have posted anywhere, and it is out in the wild and you no longer have that control.” We are not loosing that control, we are giving that away. Every time we buy with credit cards, use cell phones which signal our location or post pictures on social networks like Facebook; just sending an e-mail may make public private information.
We trade for free what our parents would have thought was private. The tension between public and privacy is nothing new. In the late 1800’s the first Kodak camera was invented with snap-shot photography. It caused “The Right To Privacy” to be written in the Harvard Law Review on December 15, 1890. The future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned of the dangers to privacy these new snap-shots could become.
Today on the internet we have data-mining. Companies are collecting our private information, packaging it, using it and selling it to other companies. Michael Fertik, a Harvard Law School grad runs a company called He collects stuff on you and determines your reputation based mainly on where you happen to live. It is easy to confuse you with someone who has a similar name and mesh identities. Supposed idly, his company helps you track down and correct mis-information on you. How do we even know it is there?
There are 500 million on Facebook and 100 million people on My Space. Officials from the Barrow County Schools where school teacher Ashley Payne worked won’t give her back her job at Apalachee High School. She is now suing the school district. She wants to at least fight back to the 600 million anonymous people that copy and share your stuff with anyone they please. Where is that box? I want to crawl in it.


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