Editor’s Column: Paradox of Privacy



I like to consider myself a private person. There are certain aspects of my life I like to keep separate, and I don’t divulge details unless they are completely necessary. I know who my friends are and what is appropriate to say around them. I’m comfortable with my family, but I know what would make them upset and I know how to behave in a professional environment. However, thanks to the Internet, this isn’t as easy it sounds. Call it mankind’s greatest achieve­ment or greatest curse, we have at our fingertips a seemingly unlimited supply of information and opinions on just about anything, including those around us. Whatever your social media is, we have the ability to infer a lot about our peers based upon the digital image we have cre­ated for ourselves. Yet as this form of expression advances and evolves, the call for privacy and secrecy increases. Barely a day goes by where I’m not informed of some new security settings Facebook has installed. While I understand why people would want this, it is a phenomenon that baffles me at the same time. There exists a paradox of the Internet: we enjoy the freedom of information and promote the growth of that knowledge, but we are constantly trying to hide our own. I may be the only one who thinks this, but I don’t really buy into the hypocrisy.

I sometimes associate myself with people who are very into technology and the world that it is creating. Along with their devotion to trivial hacker groups, they idolize Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks and a man who must have never heard the expression, “Information is power.” They adore him because he makes the private public and is champion of Internet col­lective supremacy. However, these are the same people warning us how our personal informa­tion is slowly being collected and assaulting us with new methods of maximizing the security of your social networks. While I admit there is a big difference between government secrets and our personal ones, the general principle remains the same. It can be somewhat annoying to be preached two conflicting viewpoints on the same general issue. Regardless of content, whatever enters the Internet becomes accessible to anyone no matter how hard you try. It creates a new kind of ethical dilemma.

Simply because the personal information of our peers is out there, should we access it to make judgments of character? Or for that matter, should our schools and employers access it to make professional judgments? We’ve all heard it before, “Don’t take pictures of me drinking. Someone could find that and I won’t get a job.”

A good chunk of us have probably scoured our pictures, untagging any questionable ac­tions. The question I have always had is: what right do our future employers have to delve into our personal lives? Unless I show up to work less than sober, I shouldn’t be faulted for the things I do in my free time. I realize that life isn’t fair, but it is a serious ethical dilemma that is going to have to be addressed at a certain point. A culture that is constantly becoming more public can’t sustain itself under the same principles that it currently has. We are going to have to reach some sort of middle point in the world of Internet culture. I don’t really know when this is going to be, but it is coming soon. If the persona that exists parallel to me on the Internet impedes my professional life, then maybe I don’t want to work for someone who chooses to only view the superficial side of myself. We’ll see if my tone changes in two years when I’m looking for a job, but until then, I know where I stand.