Privacy: Where’s your line?

I recently started a newsletter after being badgered asked to do so. It’s fun to put together, but it takes me longer than I like because I keep asking myself how much I should share about certain things, then editing. I’m having an intellectual discussion with myself about privacy, and I thought maybe I should see how you think about it.

Years ago, I wrote a manifesto called “Privacy is for Chumps”. In it, I wrote that I was “done drawing the line between business and personal”, and I said that I didn’t want to have to hide. Fast forward five years, and I find my views on privacy much the same and clearly different.

1874 representation of consummation or Beauty and the Beast or both.

1874 representation of consummation or Beauty and the Beast or both.

There are certain things you don’t know about me. Things I never wrote online. Things you can’t prove. Most of it is details – my favorite band, some of my offline hobbies, guilty pleasures – it’s the sort of stuff that adds up to make a person more complex than their digital identity lets on. Those are the details that bring a person back down to Earth while they’re meeting one of their idols for the first time in real life.

Those details are choices I make. I choose what you can observe about me. Sometimes.

We talk about data privacy and the idea that we should be able to choose what corporations do with our data. We keep fearing what the algorithm is going to say about us. And yet we keep giving it away because it’s so much easier to ignore what could happen. What I do online is those details – robot brains know more about me than you do because I bought this book and that site I ordered those socks from sold my information to a third party.

I don’t want the robot brain making assumptions about me, it’s creepy. I don’t mind if you make assumptions about me, you’re entitled to your opinion.

Our perceptions of privacy have shifted over the past couple of centuries. People used to have servants to dispose of their waste, consummate marriages in front of other people, dress each other, and otherwise perform what we now perceive to be intimate and private affairs. How has the evolution of social privacy tied with the evolution of technology shifted what data we allow or don’t allow to be collected?

What are your lines? What do you do in your offline versus online life that demonstrates your attitude towards privacy in these different spaces? It’s something that’s interesting to think about and might just affect how you interact…

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