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The privacy we don’t have

I’d like to consider myself an open book.  I’m not shy nor am I quiet and for the most part, I’m a pretty open person but there are some things I’d rather keep to myself.  I’m not breaking any laws nor am I doing anything that would warrant monitoring by the government so I don’t care if they are.  Well, at least I didn’t before taking JOMC: current issues in mass communication.

I definitely didn’t place much value on privacy at the start of this semester.  Y’all may remember that I gave up my UNC email password for a miniature Twix bar earlier in the semester and didn’t think twice about it.

I do love chocolate and (a chance to be slightly dramatic), but I didn’t see how giving up the password to my email was bad.  Sure, my dad wouldn’t have been happy with me if he knew but what’s the big deal?  I don’t have anything bad in that email nor do I have anything to hide, so I didn’t see any harm in doing so.  Well, my UNC email password is the same password for my UNC account so in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so free with giving up the password that has access to my grades, account and the ability to un-enroll me in classes.  My professor deleted my password from his email account a few minutes after I sent it but his point had already been made: some people place a higher value on privacy (and I definitely wasn’t one of them).

A few classes after the class where we gave up our passwords for candy, a topic in class was privacy and how we rely on privacy, even if we don’t admit it.  We read an article about how there are technologies that can pin point your location with a high degree of accuracy– if the intended user purchases the system for a hefty price.  It didn’t shock me that there is a way to track someone’s location.  My phone always has location services turned on and my computer has a tracking system on it as well.  Those weren’t services installed by my parents to keep tabs on me, but they’re turned on so I can use navigation services, find the closest RedBox or track down my phone in case I lose it.

I know that AT&T definitely knows where I am at every moment and I’m sure Apple does too.  I don’t worry about that.  I would worry about it if they gave that information to someone else, say a murderer or a stalker (I watch too much Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU).  In other words, I expect to have privacy and that my personal information won’t be shared with the world.

The fact that I have that expectation shows that I do value privacy.  I have a passcode on my phone and a lock on my bedroom door so I don’t want everything viewable to everyone.  I like that some spheres of my life are only accessible by me– well, unless I allow you to access it.  I still don’t really mind if the government is looking at the stuff that I Google or the websites I go to.  Well, other than the places I watch movies… *imagine that there is a smirking emoji here*.

When Gary Kayye asked everyone in his Branding of Me class to make our social media profiles public, I wasn’t happy about it.  That was a tough one for me.  I can’t tweet snarky and aggressively sassy things anymore knowing that only the people I’ve allowed to follow may account will see them.  Ugh.  I happen to think that my sassy tweets are often my funniest.

After going through thousands of my tweets and ensuring I won’t become the next Justine Sacco I made my account public.  I don’t tweet as much anymore– other than my tweet promoting my blog– and it’s probably because anyone can see my tweets.  I always think before I tweet, but I definitely think a little harder and longer before I send a tweet because anyone can see it.

Glenn Greenwald talked about why privacy matters in his Ted Talk.  He said, “Now, there’s a reason why privacy is so craved universally and instinctively. It isn’t just a reflexive movement like breathing air or drinking water. The reason is that when we’re in a statewhere we can be monitored, where we can be watched, our behavior changes dramatically.”

I agree with him.

When I know that I’m shielded from judgmental eyes, I operate differently than if I knew I was being watched closely by someone else.  That’s why I can dance like a fool in my room but *attempt* to not flail around when I’m driving in my car (daddy– if you’re reading this, I wouldn’t have to do this if I had tinted windows…. also don’t make fun of me that I call my dad daddy and my mom mommy).

In some ways, I think publishing my blog to anyone that wants to read it on the Internet is a way of relinquishing some of my privacy.  I’m putting my thoughts out there for anyone to read. Sure, I can control what I write but anyone can see it.  I’ve avoided being too specific about stuff when I didn’t feel comfortable including them (like the reason behind the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day I had earlier in the semester) and I alluded to a breakup in a few posts……. hypothetically.

I don’t mind that Google will give me slightly different results than it would give to you even if we searched for the same thing.  Google knows me.  Facebook does too and my timeline is full of people that I talk to and care about, well, for the most part.  As far as news is concerned, I actually enjoy the fact that Google News knows where I am so they give me content based on my location as well as factoring some other stuff they know about me.  I would actually prefer all news sites to put content relevant to me at the top so I don’t have to search through everything to find it (even though I wouldn’t consider it a news source, I’m looking at you Buzzfeed.  Put the good quizzes up top so I can find them).

I definitely appreciate privacy more than I did at the start of the semester and since some of my private spheres have become public, I appreciate the privacy I still have even more.

I didn’t know that Buzzfeed and Facebook knew so much about me before taking this class and now that I do, I’m aware of it.  I now know that I’m being watched (hi Big Brother since I’m sure you’re reading this…. jokes… or not??? Who knows).

If there is every a day where I don’t have that privacy guaranteed to me, I probably wouldn’t give up my password for a Twix bar.

Actually, yes I would.