August 9, 2013

Santa Claus should work for the NSA.

Maybe it's a little early to start calling the highlights of 2013, but I'll put a sizable wager that the NSA ends up in TIME's 2013 year in review--wait they already published it? Shit. Whatever, I'll still put money on Eric Snowden finishing in the top 3 for "Person of the Year" status. Ever since Snowden, henceforth known as the worlds biggest tattle-tale, spilled the beans on our National Security Administration's spying practices every U.S. citizen has decided to either (a) complain about their lack of privacy, or (b) complain about the number of people who complain about the their lack of privacy.

Fair enough, the nation is outraged. Save for James Bond-type movies and MADtv cartoon mice-things, spying isn't the most respectable trade out there. I mean it's one thing to be spying on others, but it's downright egregious to spy on your own people, right? And yet anytime I hear a customer service complaint about the NSA peeping into our personal lives I can't help but think...didn't you folks ever believe in Santa Claus?

I know there's still 137 shopping days til Christmas, but let me recite a part of a festive Christmas song for you:
He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're awake, He knows if you've been bad or good...So be good for goodness sake!
Take that song apart and suddenly jolly old St. Nick doesn't seem so fun anymore. Somehow this guy's keeping tabs on all of us. Maybe it's just super fun Christmas magic, or maybe Santa's got his elves monitoring our every move. To all the 8 year old's listening to the radio during the Christmas season that song is a reminder: You aren't alone. Privacy? Doesn't exist in Chris Kringle's world. But do you think 8-year-old me cared about Santa's spy program? Nope, I agreed to the terms and conditions of "good behavior" monitoring so long as the presents got put under the pine tree. To me, the reward was worth the loss of privacy.

Santa Claus isn't real, don't worry I know that (just kidding Santa!). But the concept is the same. Nothing's private anymore because we would have to give up way too much to keep our information completely secure. Let's see if I can find a few more examples...

Ever notice how good those side-bar ads are getting at showing you exactly the right products you want need? Big stores are paying companies to gather data from your previous online purchases and your search form entries to better understand how and what you shop. Legal? Absolutely. Remember those terms and conditions you agreed to? Only after completely reading of course. Chances are you signed away some part of your privacy in the agreement. But hey, now you get great deals on the types of products you were going to buy anyway. Privacy vs. convenience: Convenience always wins.

Sometimes we exchange our privacy for non-material rewards. Think about your information privacy: Are you really doing your best to monitor what you share with others online? Facebook's an obvious example of our blasé approach to information sharing, but thankfully it still has some privacy settings that we barely read. Twitter should change the term "tweets" to "future regrets" to better resonate with most of its audience. And the worst of all? 4square! What was the thinking behind this social media monstrosity? "Let's create an app to let stalkers know exactly where you are at all times!" Oh and others can tag you at the place you're going so you don't even have to give consent. What a relief! I'm surprised the app never developed GPS capabilities for large white vans.

Even if it doesn't feel like it, we put way too much of our personal information on social media sites. This is a fact not missed by frauds, identity thieves, and general hackers. But, yet again, we'd rather have the rewards of an active social life, status likes, and networking opportunities. We choose to hand over our private information to the world so people we've never shook hands with can be our friends.

I used to think that there were some things about us that were still private. Our own bodies for example. Sure, clothes are skimpy, but at least we still wear something, right? Next thing you know I'm watching Robin Thicke's new music video for his song "Blurred Lines." WARNING: That link's a risky click if you're at work. In the video the two male singers are wearing pretty sharp suits while the girls dance in a suit of the birthday variety (that means they are naked). Here's the kicker, I can find that video on Youtube. I don't even have to look very hard. While I realize naked girls on the internet is nothing new, there used to be a time where you had to lie about being 18 or older to see them.

And it dawns on me that this is the future of music videos. Even if there is a ton of negative reaction to Thicke's video, we'll eventually get to the point where we watch others dance naked to music on a public forum. So what do I tell my future son or especially my future daughter when we have the talk about the privacy of their bodies? One look at that Youtube video and it's pretty clear that our most personal privacy doesn't exist anymore. It's gone. And for what? The chance to be famous? Yikes.

So forget about the myth of privacy. It doesn't exist. It hasn't existed since Santa first came down your chimney and it doesn't exist now. People know things about you. Now it's your job to start controlling how much they get to know.

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