How Our Privacy Has Changed

In such a technologically advanced world, it’s hard to be completely private. Online, especially through the use of social media, we are constantly sharing information about ourselves and letting people all over the world have access to it. In addition, the internet has allowed the government and marketing agencies to track our every move. We are constantly being looked at for data and threats.

Is it possible to be completely private with all of this technology? How has our privacy and surveillance changed over the course of time? These are questions I will address.

When thinking about privacy, it’s important to look at how important it was in the past. Looking back at the oral and scribal eras, communities were so tight knit that everyone knew everything about one another. This type of living didn’t require much privacy or surveillance because people were just expected to look out for one another.

In the modern era however, things started to change. At this time, institutions were established and people were beginning to spread out into cities. Due to the fact that communities weren’t as close anymore, there became the greater need for privacy and surveillance.

This brings us to the post-modern era that we are currently in. Today, communities are the opposite of how they were in the oral and scribal era. People are spread out all over the world thus, the internet and technology often become our way of communicating.We have become dependent on the Internet and because of this, everything that we do online has become easily accessible and traceable.

In class, and in the readings, we learned that privacy has three major components to it. These are known as solitude, secrecy, and anonymity. Its important to address these three components because it will help to understand what they mean in a post-modern world.

To start, solitude is defined as “the ability to be alone, isolated, or cut off from others, or colloquially to be ‘alone with one’s thoughts’” (Miller, 113). When I think of solitude, the first example I think of is being alone in the wilderness. Typically, when people are in the wild, they are able to find solitude because of the lack of technology and people. Today, I think the idea of solitude is nearly impossible with technology. Living in such a technologically advanced age, it would be impossible to completely isolate yourself. Technology has become something that we need. For example, in order to do school assignments and communicate with professors, I need my computer. It would be impossible to survive college without it. I would never be able to do research for papers, tell my professor I won’t be able to attend class, or receive emails and notifications about assignments. With this in mind, I think the lack of solitude makes privacy hard in the post modern world.

Next, Miller defines secrecy “as is being able to limit or have control over the amount of information others can know about oneself or the claim of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others” (Miller, 113). Looking at secrecy today, I think the internet attempts to give individuals this control but that it will never truly happen. An example of this would be with social media sites such as Facebook. On sites like Facebook, there are privacy options that allow you to control who sees what. You can hide pictures or posts from certain individuals and control the information they see. Though this is helpful in maintaining privacy, I feel that there are still some issues with this. What you put online is never completely private. Moreover, privacy settings are constantly changing and also, a lot of the times friends of friends can see your information and spread it.

Lastly, anonymity is the idea that “people are seen to be deserving of the right of protection from unwanted attention and scrutiny, or the right to simply be ‘a face in the crowd’ and go about ones business unhindered by the surveillance or attention of others” (Miller, 113). Anonymity is seen as a more modern and new term because today, a lot of websites let users hide their identity. The best example that I could think of for this is with the site Yik Yak. Yik Yak is an app that allows people to create and view discussion threads within a 5-mile radius. They can create posts and the idea is that they are completely anonymous. The problem with anonymity is that it often times can lead to cyber bullying, shaming, ect. A lot of the time people feel that when they are anonymous they can say things that they normally wouldn’t because no one will know it was them.

In general, our privacy has absolutely changed over time. We went from living in communities that didn’t need privacy or surveillance to having our every move looked at. In terms of surveillance I think one of the benefits is that I feel more safe. For example, a lot of the time terrorist groups that are formed online are tracked by the government and FBI and this allows them to have more control of the situation. However, the possibility that they form online and can gain more followers online is scary and I think the downside. In terms of privacy, I think the internet has made it hard for us to be private which is a negative aspect of technology today. On the contrary, we are responsible for what we put online and have the option to not share information about ourselves at all.

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