I was eating dinner with my best friend a few nights ago, and somehow the topic of privacy came up. I can’t remember how or why we started talking about it, but the conversation itself was interesting, and as she has no experience or education in journalism, advertising or marketing, some of the things I said to her shocked her.
I think what got us truly started on the topic was when we started to discuss the “right to be forgotten” laws in Germany. For anyone who doesn’t know, this law basically says that you have the right not to be included in web searches, and to be erased from the internet if you want to be. Since it passed, people in Germany, and across the EU, have been suing Google to have themselves removed from web searches. We then started to compare foreign privacy laws to those of the United States.
It really should come as no shock that there is no expectation of privacy in this country. Everything you do – every purchase, every mouse click, every social media account – is monitored, and the data is stored and used to understand how you, the consumer, thinks and acts, and hopefully predict your next purchase or vote. Every piece of data is of value to someone. But it doesn’t end there.
In the United States revenge porn is legal, despite it being morally despicable. The only state so far to even touch the issue is California.
The point is there is a difference between the information we offer willingly, and those we don’t. That is why I’m confused when I hear industry professionals talking about balancing big data with privacy concerns. They aren’t taking any information that wasn’t willingly given. The information and the data is there to be collected, analyzed, understood and translated into something actionable – because of that shoe purchase on Zappos, or that restaurant review on Yelp, or any other myriad of things that you did online.
Basically what it comes down to is this: there is no privacy in America anymore. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing (I’m not saying it’s a good thing either). In fact, I’m quite indifferent on the matter.