Privacy is dead—deal with it

Privacy advocates are chirping about Facebook’s new search function, but the author says privacy is a long-dead illusion. He offers five reasons why.


Every once in a while, one of my Facebook friends posts a notice that they want to remain friends with me, but they do not wish to have their updates and photos shared with everyone else. If I would just highlight and click his or her name, and then politely uncheck a box, everything will be hunky dory.

I wonder how they’ll feel about Facebook’s new search function, Graph Search, which combs through your friends’ information to find answers to queries. Facebook has vowed that privacy is a chief concern, but the promises haven’t quieted opponents who question Mark Zuckerberg’s claims.

To these people, and all within the sound of my digital voice, let me be super duper clear: Privacy is dead.

It has been dead all of my life—since 1970—and probably long before that, but let’s talk about privacy today. Here are reasons why privacy is dead:

1. Cameras document everything

Between satellites, video surveillance, and personal smartphones, there are millions of cameras everywhere. A recent study showed that the average American is photographed in some way (with or without knowledge) about eight times per day.

2. Big data collects everything you do online

All of your consumer behavior—you know, when you buy stuff—is tracked and analyzed by companies around the world, around the clock. In fact, there is so much data— experts say that every day 2.5 quintillion (18 zeros) bytes of data are uploaded to the Web—that there is a campaign to educate and graduate more data scientists to analyze all of it.

Your data is in there, too. You can bet money they know more about you than your parents did while you were in high school. Facebook also just launched a new Graph Search, which allows you to search your friends’ profiles (especially photos) by keyword and dig even deeper.

3. Spam will always infiltrate your inbox

Good Lord, can marketers kill good things or what? Email, once the pristine white beach of messages you cared about from people you knew, is now a dirty, dark, dismal wasteland that you must venture into each day and hold your nose through the multiple Viagra, online dating, and used office furniture solicitations. And your text messages and social media posts are the next frontier.

4. Smartphones can record—and quickly share—your every move

Smartphones shoot videos, and so will watches—and bracelets, earrings, you name it. These videos of something you (or your company spokesperson) meant for a like-minded audience can (and definitely will) be shared with the entire world minutes after it happens (depending on the area network and its download speeds).

5. Internet everywhere means you’re always on the map

You can access the Internet almost anywhere, but in exchange, you’re sacrificing privacy. That’s the world we live in. For example, your awesome smartphone is a GPS capable of finding super tasty frozen yogurt near you and tracking your every move with (and sometimes without) your knowledge. I accept that my information is out there because I love the ability to get the Rams game score in the church parking lot.

Ultimately, privacy is an illusion that comforts people who think it exists, but really, it hasn’t for a very long time. So I say accept it—embrace it and say, “Hey, my information, photos, videos, and, of course, all of the junk I post is probably being shared by millions of people I don’t know and that’s … OK.”

What do you think—are you with me?

Scott Robertson, APR, is president of Robertson Communications Corp. a digital public relations agency based in Orange County, Calif., which specializes in helping some of the best music/sound, technology and b2b companies in the world win in the marketplace through superior PR and communications. To read more of his blog ramblings, check out www.robertsoncomm.com.

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