The concept of privacy appears to be disappearing from our society. Thanks to technology and stupidity we’ve all become more exposed than Anthony Weiner’s weiner. Gone are the days when reporters kept politician’s secrets, when celebrity gossip was limited to the likes of Hedda Hopper and Rona Barrett, and when criminals just stole your money, not your dignity or your identity. Ahh, the good old days.
Ever since 1949, when the book 1984 came out, we’ve all been dreading a government controlled Big Brother style of mass surveillance. While we have come closer to that dystopian future, let’s face it, our government has been as incompetent at that as it has everything else. Despite their best efforts to violate our right to privacy under the guise of “national security”, they keep bungling it. Between fighting constant legal challenges and facing formidable whistle blowers, they can barely keep tabs on their enemies, much less the rest of us. I don’t think Uncle Sam is really interested in you and me. Unless you’re Edward Snowden or Hillary Clinton. In which case, I’m flattered you’re reading my blog.
Who is interested in us are criminal hackers and video voyeurs. These days, you never know when you’re being spied on by some deviant who hid a tiny camera in a public restroom or a private hotel room. God only knows what these modern day Peeping Toms are doing with those recordings of us in our most compromising positions. It’s getting to be you can’t even take a shit anymore without worrying about becoming part of some pervert’s personal porn collection or, even worse, going viral on the internet. Well, that probably wouldn’t happen to you or me. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian or Jennifer Lawrence. In which case, I wish you’d stop reading my blog and call me.
How is it that all these beautiful celebrities keep getting hacked and exposed? I know I’m part of an older generation who would never even consider sending a naked picture of myself to anyone because it might make them throw up. But even if I was that young and beautiful, it’s hard to imagine that I’d be that stupid. We all know those pictures get stored in "the cloud." Even if we don’t really know what "the cloud" is. The only explanation that makes sense is that they do it on purpose for publicity. So they can act all shocked and innocent when everyone gets to see just how hot they are. You notice not a lot of fat and ugly celebrities get their nude photos leaked. I don’t think we’ll ever see Louis Anderson or Sarah Huckabee get blackmailed over their naked pics.
Dating sounds scary in the internet age. From what I hear, sending dick pics is pretty much a requirement for a guy in the early stages of a relationship these days. It’s kind of like what sending flowers used to be in my day. Plus, I’ve heard too many stories about scorned lovers who publicly shamed their ex’s on social media with the intimate details of their failed relationships. I can’t imagine the horror of one of my ex-girlfriends lying or, worse, telling the truth about me on the internet. What if they had exposed all my bad habits, short comings and sexual proclivities? Not that I have any. But what if I did?
Did you ever Google yourself? It’s not as much fun as it sounds. Almost all of your personal information is out there for anybody who knows how to read. I don’t want to scare you, but you should be scared. On the Dark Web you can buy credit card numbers, stolen credentials and software that helps you break into other people’s computers. You can even hire hackers to attack computers for you. Having to live in an online world makes me feel like Shelly Duvall in The Shining. There’s no place to hide.
Cyber attacks on big corporations happen all the time. Private data for 100 million customers was stolen from Capital One, 327 million from Marriott and 500 million from Yahoo, just to name a few. I’m one of the last people I know who won’t bank online and still pays my bills by check because I don’t want multiple institutions having direct access to my account. I’m also one of the last people I know with a landline telephone, a VHS player and a poster of Farrah Fawcett.
Even the companies that we pay to protect our online data from getting hacked get hacked. Equifax, one of the largest fraud protection services, exposed nearly 150 million Americans private information when their system was breached by hackers. To compensate their customers, Equifax was required to offer ten years of free service. Which is like the waiter who spilled hot soup in your lap offering not to charge you for a second bowl.
In Bulgaria, their tax revenue office was recently hacked. In a country with a population of around 7 million, they estimate 5 million people’s personal information was stolen. How long before you think someone figures out how to hack into our IRS? And then every American’s confidential financial information would be exposed. It would almost be worth it just to finally see Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Ironically, most of the privacy we’ve lost has been given away more than taken away. We have knowingly and willingly exposed ourselves to unknown sources and handed over the figurative keys to our literal homes. Because we don’t really have much of a choice. Just about every app, smartphone, security system and online service we subscribe to comes with privacy policies that have pages of fine print terms and conditions that nobody bothers to read or would understand if they did.
Case in point, an app recently went viral that shows people how their faces will look when they get old. (As someone who’s already old, I have to admit that the appeal of this trend was lost on me.) The millions of everyday people and famous celebrities who used it agreed to the following:
“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive royalty free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you.”
So if you used this app and someday see your wrinkled old face on a shelf full of adult diaper boxes in your local drug store, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
I did not get Kevin Hart’s permission to use his image.
And it’s not just the on internet. Now we’re losing privacy in our offices, too. The newest trend is wall-less office space. They’re large rooms filled with rows of long desks that look like giant cafeteria tables where employees sit next to and across from each other with nothing separating them other than their computer screens. What a delight for the senses it must be to to hear, see and smell the people you work with every minute of every day. It used to be that being stuck in a cubicle was bad enough. Now, working in a cubicle is like having a corner office suite. I don’t understand how people can work without any privacy. How can they think? How do they make personal phone calls? How can they cut a fart?
They’ll tell you it creates a more productive environment that encourages teamwork and communication. But that’s bullshit. The big bosses still have their private offices. It’s just cheaper than building walls and buying doors and it’s a lot easier to keep an eye on everyone. The worst part is that now an entire generation will never know the thrill of having sex in their office. I always thought of that as a sexual rite of passage like joining the mile high club, making love on a beach or fooling around with your hot cousin while the rest of your family is having Thanksgiving dinner. What? Was that just me?
Employers are now are also legally monitoring your emails, texts and sometimes even your phone calls. Many companies make employees sign agreements detailing how any transmission that flows over a work-issued phone or computer is company property, going as far as to record videos of their activities and monitor conference room conversations. I’ve had bosses who bugged me with their micro-managing before, but I’ve never been bugged with a microphone. At least, not that I know of.
So hang on to what little privacy you have left for as long as you can. Like youth, it fades slowly over time so that you barely notice it at first. Until one morning you wake up and realize it’s gone forever, and now you have to face the ugly truth. There’s probably nothing we can do, except resist for as long as we can. Don’t submit to your government. Don’t give in to the corporations. Don’t let Big Brother become your closest relative. Don’t blindly click “Agree.” And for God’s sake, don’t send any dick pics. Except this one…
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