In April, I wrote about the power of social media and the fact that once it’s posted, it lives forever. We all know that we need to be very careful of what we post to our social media sites. I feel that the use of social media has removed the expectancy of privacy for all of us.
It seems like nothing is sacred. If we are happy, we post. If we are sad or angry, we post. We feel that those in our social networks will be thrilled to know that our child just received an A+ on their report, that it has rained 1″ in our neighborhood or that we are currently at the beach. Social media appears to be a slightly narcissistic tool, at times. And, a pretty handy tool for those who may wish to rob your home when they know you are “at the beach”.
With that said, and the recent reporting that our government has accessed the private records of some of the media, I’m wondering why we are surprised. Since we are so willing to share the most intimate details of our lives online, how can we be shocked when the veil of privacy disappears?
I’m amazed that everyone doesn’t realize that everything they do or say online is recorded somewhere. And, the more that is put out there, the easier it is to find out all there is to know about you. I would be surprised if our government isn’t aware of everything going on in all of our online lives. But, my surprise doesn’t mean I agree with their actions.
Now, we may be inclined to say, “That’s OK, the monitoring is helping to keep us safe from terrorism”. But, are we really willing to pay the price for that monitoring – our right to privacy? I don’t presume to know the answer and I’m betting it lies somewhere in between “yes” and “no”. But, I wonder how we can presume to have a right to keep private everything that we willingly mass distribute via the internet?
Many years ago, when I was a child, I remember that instead of having a private phone line, we shared party lines. Each household had a distinct ring and you answered the phone when it chimed your ring. However, when you wanted to make a phone call, you would pick up the phone and often hear one of your neighbors having a private conversation.
We all understood that the telephone party line, meant that anything said in a conversation might be heard by one or more “secret listeners”. We didn’t presume privacy for what we willingly said on those shared telephone lines.
Today, many employees are also warned that the organizations they work for have the right to monitor their email. So, they cannot presume privacy in any email conversation taking place on their office email. However, I’m betting that doesn’t stop some from sharing details they wouldn’t want their bosses to know.
I point out these examples because we have willingly given up privacy over the years for the convenience that technology brings us. Does that mean our government has the right to do what they are being accused of doing – invading our privacy? Absolutely not! I believe it’s wrong and one more step down the slippery slope. Unfortunately, I hear many people just slough it off and act like it’s no big deal.
However, it is not just our government. There are companies that have built their business model on data. This data is then sold to organizations that are looking for people who look like you. They have demographic, psychographic and firmagraphic information they disseminate so that others can target the right prospects with their offerings. We can even purchase information that tells us who is active on social media and the brand names of organizations that they talk about in their social media postings. Obviously, a great tool to help find brand advocates.
We can find out that health food fanatics are the largest purchasers of treadmills. Or, that those who belong to a certain political party are more likely to travel to Europe. The ability to purchase the propensity scores for individuals is a real help to us in the marketing community, but it means that we likely know far more about you than you think we do.
The channel of social media has blurred the lines between public and private information and I think we will be dealing with this issue a lot in the future. I believe Big Brother IS watching! So, watch what you share.