Online Exhibitionists affect privacy for us all…

bigbrotherI came up with the title for this piece after reading this article on the BBC Website about people who the authors of a paper called ‘online exhibitionists.  The idea is that much privacy legislation is based around the idea of what levels of privacy someone can reasonably expect to have when out and about in public.  So, if we live in a world where people are relatively circumspect, photography and publication in public places is rare, then we can expect to have some right to privacy based on a reasonable expectation that you won’t be photographed.  If you’re a celebrity, then your expectation can be less because you might reasonably expect to have people taking pictures and hassling you because the nature of your work has put you in the public eye.  Right or wrong, that’s the way it’s tended to run over recent years.

Of course, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, everyone has effectively become a ZZ List Celebrity within their own group of friends or the town in which they live in.  In fact, it might be said that by the very act of registering an account with something like Facebook, we’re actually turning our backs on our right to privacy – and that’s wrong.  I recently covered this sort of ground in my post ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’

In my original plan for this piece, I was going to elaborate on this issue – but then a Tweet made me aware of a quote from Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook – “The Age of Privacy is Over”.  Here it is. He states that were Facebook being set up now he’d default all our privacy settings to Public.  Now, I quite like Facebook and have taken my privacy settings to a level with which I’m happy – but I can see Facebook losing users if they start regarding our lives as ‘entertainment feed’ for the real time Web.

Well, given that Zukerberg’s company rely on us letting go of a bit of privacy to communicate with each other, I can see that, in the words of Christine Keeler, ‘He would say that, wouldn’t he?’

But what has scared the bejabers out of me this morning is to see comments from some digital media folks along the lines that they feel it might be rewarding for us to ‘hide less’.  I’m sorry?  I can only imagine that those who say such things have never been on the receiving end of online stalking, have never been harassed for their sexuality expressed online, have never suffered a rock through their window from thugs because of their politics or race. 

It may appear to be ‘hiding less’ for people in the business but it can be a matter of staying alive for some.  Even when these people do not have online profiles, their privacy can be breached accidentally or deliberately by others who do.

Maybe the world of Big Brother has come 25 years late and is being self-inflicted.  Just how many people out there right now are echoing in their attitudes the final chilling words of ‘1984’:

“But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

0 thoughts on “Online Exhibitionists affect privacy for us all…

  1. Hi Joe,
    Interesting take on the privacy issue. It is very true that we are all under a magnifier glass (either we want it or not). And it is very scary to think that, even though you might decide not to be part of facebook, you really don’t have an option. As you said, ‘Even when these people do not have online profiles, their privacy can be breached accidentally or deliberately by others who do.’ Now, will this result in people dropping out of facebook? I don’t think so. Humans have an incredible capacity to accept, and adapt, to circumstances. However, to keep things fair, facebook and other firms with huge databases, should be held accountable and clear and fair privacy rules should be established. In a global society, where information is shared at a very fast pace, it is very important to protect the individual and his/her ideas and private life.

  2. Hi Santiago – thanks for your comment – much appreciated!

    I think that it’s a two faceted problem – the first is for Facebook et. al. to make privacy more important, and the second is for the users of such systems to be more respectful of the privacy of their friends and family. Perhaps we all need to get our heads around the idea that privacy is something we can all give to others as well as expect it from others?

  3. There’s a couple of things which are happening to the psyche of our North American population, all from the media. The obsession with celebrities has created a culture of fanatical people. People who are themselves obsessed with becoming celebrities.

    Enter Facebook. Every person is an instant celebrity, maybe not to billions of people all over the world but still they are celebrities to their family and friends. Every second is chronicled and published for anyone to see. And when I say anyone I mean just that. The obsession with being a celebrity has been conditioned so well into North American’s that most people will choose to have their Facebook privacy settings set on PUBLIC just so they KNOW that people have access to read anything and everything about them. Just so they KNOW that people are viewing their pictures…you know…that same picture taken 20 different times by that insecure girl who needs some attention…. yah those pictures.

    Yes, we are losing our privacy. Will privacy exist in 20 years. I don’t think so.

    And on another note, for the people who need to Google and search you to find out whatever they can about you – Take it as a compliment that their lives are so empty and their hearts so insecure and scared that they have to spend their time looking an individual up online in order to feel some sort of control over that person. You are empty fools who are wasting your life. Read a book, learn about science and what’s really happening in the world. Get out of your materialistic bullshit of a life and do something with your time on this planet…something other than gossip about someone who has NOTHING to do with YOUR life.

  4. Antonio,

    Email me @

    I’ll set you up with some colleagues of mine at Google. You’ll be amazed what they can show you concerning what people are searching for on the Internet. They can even track who is looking you up on Google by the IP addresses that are stored on Google servers. Everything is trackable when it comes to the Internet.

    I’m glad to see that your a critical thinker in all of this media brainwashing.

    Contact me, I’ll set you up.

    Ron Pennington.

  5. That’s very generous of you Ron. Thank you, but I already have contacts at Google.

    Everything you state is correct. Everything is traceable when it comes to the Internet. People are stupidly excited about something like Facebook, but if they knew that Facebook is nothing more than a large scale spying tool they would think twice before publishing their entire life, minute by minute, on that website.

    I think it’s a safe assumption to make that the majority of the population in North America is lost. They are lost in entertainment instead of being found through science.

    If someone wants to be enlightened I suggest reading authors such as Carl Sagan.
    As he so eloquently put it:

    “We feel so much more comfortable with the idea of things touching and jiggling, pushing and pulling, rather than “fields” magically moving objects at a distance or mere mathematical abstractions. The fact that our senses rely on solid, sensible physical contact – to explain, say, why the butter knife comes to you when you pick it up – is a misconception. What does it mean to have physical contact? What exactly is happening when you pick up a knife, or push a swing, or make a wave in a waterbed by pressing down on it periodically? When we investigate deeply, we find that there is no physical contact. Instead, the electrical charges on your hand are influencing the electrical charges on the knife or swing or waterbed, and vice versa. Despite everyday experience and common sense, even here, there is only the interaction of electric fields. Nothing is touching anything.”

    Science has the answers.

    Not the religion of celebritism, nor religion itself.

    But hey, enjoy your Jersey Shore, American Idol and all the other TV shows and movies whose sole purpose is to entertain your mind…

    … to keep you from exploring it.

    Escape your realities with entertainment. Don’t fret over the fact that Siberia is melting and that a shit load of methane is going to be released into the atmosphere once it melts enough.

    By the way, once that happens, it’s over. Life will no longer exist on our planet. Research it, it’s happening right now.

    Once that happens, EVERYONE’S gonna cry that they didn’t invest their lives in science finding ways to fix our problems and to further the progress of human evolution.

    We are headed for dangerous waters in the future if we don’t wake up and focus on what is truly important and stop wasting our lives on nonsense. There’s still time. It’s not too late, but if another twenty years goes by and we still haven’t eradicated pollution, money, and national borders then our story ends.

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