About privacy in an intrusive world

What would you do if a total stranger knocked on your door and asked to join a conversation you were having with your friends? This is Facebook for you.

What would you do if a total stranger knocked on your door and asked to see your family album? This is Instagram for you.

Twitter is climbing on a roof with a loudspeaker, and Google+ is opening every room in your house for inspection to include cupboards, closets, trash bins, drawers, and even your attic with mementos about your heritage and history.

I belong to a generation of baby boomers where privacy meant private, strangers meant strangers, my phone conversations were my own business, and my trash belonged to me, not some Federal Agency. We grew up appreciating and protecting the privacy of our lives for no reason other than… It belonged to us. If homes were castles, the desire for privacy was our moat protecting us from all intrusion. It was our decision when we opened the gates of our castle and when we kept them shut solid.

As a father, I never opened a letter that did not have my name on it, peeked into a purse even if asked to fetch something, or contemplated to read my daughter’s diary, which was her sacred castle. Privacy, to my generation, meant respecting someone else’s borders.

Then time went by us quickly to discover ourselves in this new world. A strange world, really.

Doors have flung wide open. Borders are blurred either by the Internet or by our own Government. We can feel it deep in our guts and we are quite uncomfortable in its meaning.

We make strangers our friends and we hardly meet our friends as if they were strangers. We learn about our kids’ lives on social media when it would have been such a pleasure to hear them in person. We comfort ourselves by saying at least we know who their friends are. Zolodud23 is … I think our neighbor’s son, no?

We have become texting zombies typing away on a device we might as well attach to our liver. We read emails, we exchange pleasantries on some social media, and we go to sleep thinking to ourselves that life is good even though most of it happens behind some screen, be it a phone, a computer, or a TV. We even carry change just to drop in some charity bucket, not to call from a pay phone.

Then we have our own Government to concern us, one that intrudes whether it is necessary or not. Whether we deserve to be observed, or whether we are just silly numbers with no value to anyone. We learned about it from an American spy working for our worst enemy, so we comfort ourselves by saying if our enemies want us to revolt against our own Government, should we give them that satisfaction? Should we not stand by those who intrude upon us? As I said, privacy has become a blurry affair.

Things are not that bad if it was not for this new intrusion in our private lives.

Imagine how we would suffer without instant access to information, and a constant control over our environment and consumerism, none of which would have happened without the instantaneous connectivity. Before Amazon and eBay, we paid full retail. Before Netflix, we drove to a store. Before Craigslist, newspapers charged us monopoly prices.

We all have become smart consumers, and even smarter managers in this connected world. However, I still think my privacy is worth more than free shipping by Amazon or a free Gmail account.