The Construct of Privacy

I have to admit I’m pretty old fashioned when it comes to calling a cab.  Ideally, I would prefer to hail a cab on the street by waving my arm over any other method, even Uber.  A lot of people who know me always seemed puzzled by this, especially since I love efficiency and convenience.  In both of those areas, Uber clearly excels.  My response is always the same, cabs preserve anonymity, especially if I pay with cash.

I explained my reasons for preferring cabs over Uber to a friend of mine the other day who, incidentally, is 10 years my junior.  “Oh,” he replied, nodding his head slightly.  “I get it, you still believe in privacy.”  I paused for a moment when he said this.  Did I really think I could protect my privacy by refusing to use Uber when I so willingly sign away my soul agreeing to lengthy terms of service every time I use a new app?  The more our privacy rights are infringed upon (e.g. surveillance cameras, lengthy terms of service agreements, etc.), the less likely we are to notice, resist, or object to them over time.  And yet we do it all the time and make compromises for the convenience and thrill of using technology.

People may enjoy publicly displaying and broadcasting the best, the juiciest, and the most exciting parts of their lives through various social media channels, but they often do so from a personal, private device.  Sometimes smartphones (and other handheld personal devices), actually enable people to have privacy.  Contained in one device could be hundreds of personal, private bits of content such as photos, “sext” messages, notes, drawings, voice mails, all of which can be guarded and protected.

My friend also mentioned that a lot of people use Snapchat, a messaging service that deletes the message seconds after the recipient has opened and viewed it.  This may not fall under a traditional definition of privacy, but I would feel more inclined to discuss private and personal things if I knew a record of the details wouldn’t (or couldn’t) be preserved.

As we bumble along trying to redraw and establish the boundaries of privacy, I find myself continually wondering about what it means to have privacy and the impact of digital communications and social media on my rights.

So who, exactly, is constructing the concept of “privacy” these days?

4 comments for “The Construct of Privacy

  1. Anonymous
    19 January 2016 at 08:11

    Get used to the fact that there is no such thing as privacy unless you live in a cave and do not communicate in any way with the rest of the world. All anyone can do us not do stupid things that chip away at one’s privacy.

  2. Paul Pinkerton
    19 January 2016 at 08:45

    The ‘construct of privacy’ isn’t a new debate in the throes of new technology, big data and global conglomerates. Anyone who has ever lived in a small town will attest to the lack of privacy that exists when human beings live in close proximity to one another. The image of the mountain man living in a cabin in the woods has long been a nod to controlling one’s own information and privacy. We are simply discussing this in a new context – and I would offer that it’s not privacy we care so much about, but rather the right to reveal information at the time and to whom we choose and the right to not be marginalized or shutout due to information about us that others know. The concept of the right to be forgotten is an important piece of this too.

    Maybe what we’re really after is less nosy neighbours who hang on every salacious rumour about us.

  3. jamew2965
    19 January 2016 at 09:47

    Wow, Don’t you know that if you have bought anything online, or signed up to any social app, hell any app. Your privacy has been long gone. As for snap-chat, the pictures are not deleted and can be retrieved. Just do a YouTube search on how to retrieve snap-chat pics. You will see. Due to being able to purchase online, signing up for apps and social media privacy has to be redefined as it is in no way what it once ways.
    As for Uber , they are the best. I hope they put Yellow cabs in NY out of business. I have my reasons for this, but that is a whole other post.


    • The Deletist
      19 January 2016 at 19:00

      Hi James,
      Thanks for the comments. Yes, I’m well aware everything on Snapchat can be saved by the recipient. That app was developed shortly after Snapchat was released. I was just speculating about the concept of Snapchat.

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