The most important information and communication development of the late twentieth century for privacy was the combination of the internet, web browsers and search engines. This "powerhouse" combination made a library of information available and worldwide communication for anyone with a personal computer and an internet connection.
During the early twenty-first century, social media, smart phones and tablets have put this expansion on steroids. Now you can send text messages to anyone with a smart phone (I understand it's about 70% of the U.S. population!) and follow whatever someone is willing to post about their lives.
In exchange for this access to virtually unlimited communication and access to information, we have surrendered our privacy.
The warning, "If you wouldn't want to see your message, photo or video on the front page of the New York Times, don't post it on a social media site," is largely disregarded. Teenagers don't have the judgment to self-censor their messages and photos. Adults who should know better post photos of themselves, their friends and people they dislike in drunken binges or compromised situations, threatening their livelihoods and social standing. It's practically impossible to "erase" information once it's posted on the internet.
Facebook and other social media services often change their privacy settings and policies without the understanding of their users, and information that they thought wasn't available to the public actually is.
Lori Andrews is an attorney who has followed these developments and has documented them in her book, I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did. In her book, she proposed a Social Network Constitution. I am afraid that hers is a "voice lost in the wilderness" and she probably won't be successful in getting the protections adopted that we need today.
Meanwhile, I think this book should be required reading for everyone, especially for children in our schools who are starting to use this technology.
To get an idea of the information (and possible misinformation) that is readily available about you, try visiting Spokeo.com.
All of your searches and texts are catalogued and you are profiled.
Not only is Big Brother watching, so is everyone else!
Buy it on Amazon: I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy.
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