Is Privacy Online a Hoax?

Privacy online in the digital age has created controversy around commercial companies and online users. Does privacy really exist online?

When discussing the idea of privacy in the digital age, there is a misconception about what the term ‘privacy’ truly means. Vincent Miller describes privacy and surveillance in this chapter of Understanding Digital Culture Dating back to the earlier stages of civilization, privacy was viewed less as a necessity. For instance in the premodern era, society functioned as a unit and everything was done and shared together. However, as we began to transition into the modern era, the concept of privacy evolved into something was that was every human’s right. Individualization of society began with the working class, where families would escape to their individual homes after long work days. Institutions allowed people to obtain identification, such as credit cards, passports, and licenses. With identification comes the right to want to protect your identity.

Transitioning into the rise of digital media in the postmodern era, the concept of privacy has been skewed. On one hand, online users attempt to protect themselves online using private settings, restricting their followers, and self-monitoring what they post. However, on the other hand, large online corporations have access to data from a wide range of users which is completely out of the user’s control. Modern society, as Miller describes as the information age, has changed the nature of privacy and taken the definition from a simplistic to a more complex meaning. Miller claims that there are different types of privacy, one which are firstly there for our safety during everyday life, followed by the breach of our privacy through surveillance of our digital life.

In the reading, Vincent Miller presents us with the case study about surveillance in London. It has been concluded that on average a person is being photographed roughly 300 times a day, excluding the reality that most people own a digital communication device which allows excess information to travel through. It states that London is one of the places in the world that has the strictest and widespread security system.

Many instances that we used to once consider an invasion of privacy is now looked passed without thought in the digital age. For instance, in the past if a phone call was recorded, or if a picture was taken without permission it was socially unacceptable. However, with digital at our fingertips today these things are happening without our acknowledgement. Ever text you send is being saved, everything you search on the web is being recorded, and every picture you take is being stored. Digital culture has enabled big companies to access personal information. The invasion of privacy has drawn red lights to people, and forced legal justice among companies to protect one’s privacy. The issue with the right to privacy online is many users wanted their privacy protected under the law, but the rapid growth of technologies made it hard to maintain protection over mass organizations.

It cannot be argued that the internet has created so many positive changes in the world, however, for all the good there is some bad. The ability to access data so easily online is the lead to why we have been exposed to so many cases of cyber stalking and hacking. Crime on the Internet has rapidly grown for many reasons. Reason number one being, some users feel when they are committing fraud online they are not truly committing fraud. Though that is obviously not true, the online identity provides a security blanket for many users enabling them to feel as though hacking is nothing too serious.

Though we are under constant surveillance, society is nothing like it was illustrated in the Black Mirror episode of Nosedive. In short, the episode is looking at society in a futuristic light, where social capital controls every aspect of your everyday life. The score of your social capital is dependent on your interactions throughout your day, your personal rankings, and where you rank among your peers. Each ranking is based on a 5 star scale and is determined by others around you. The only personal control you have it how you market yourself as an idealistic member of society. Your ranking defines your worth, ultimately defining what you are capable of achieving. Though as a digital society we function as a ranking society, this episode was pretty fabricated considering that we are still separated from online and offline. In this episode you had no choice but to post your life online if you wished to function as an active member of society.

We do not see this type of system in America, however, in China they are testing a similar system which measures your social capital and rewards with you a score. Similar to Nosedive, your score determines what you have access to in everyday society, such as jobs, and luxury products. If your score is not adequate, you can even be blacklisted. The social capital system that is being infiltrated allows for a much stricter government surveillance. Though some may argue that surveillance control is important in a demographic as large as China’s, I feel as though it is dehumanizing and restricts people from living a life that they truly wish.