Personal privacy is something most people have thought about at one time or another. Growing up this meant ensuring the lock on my diary was secured and the key safely stored. In today’s environment keeping things secure ranges from proper disposal of paper correspondence and records, to taking care of my presence online.
What people are prepared to share online is as individual as their profiles. Like many, I am concerned about my presence and appropriate ‘sharing’ online. Increasingly we see the impact of what we share or do online, as well as how easy it is to learn about people with a few keystrokes. Consider the reactions of the people in this BuzzFeed video when they are confronted with details that have been learned about them after a little bit of online research.
Even if you do what you think is best to keep your online identity in check, Neil J. Rubenking’s February 2014 PC Mag article recommends reviewing your settings from time to time to confirm that they are still applicable. However, not all the information learned about us is as the result of our conscious sharing.
In her article “All Eyes on You”, Jennifer Golbeck, PhD. details the types and ways information is collected about us, often without our knowledge. In doing so, these ‘back-end’ processes learn more about us than we may appreciate. When you think about it, collecting personal data isn’t really all that new. Did you shop in a store this week? Most if not all bricks and mortar retail outlets monitor and record customers through close circuit video surveillance and regularly track habits and interests through purchasing preferences. But what about our online behaviour? In her 2013 TED Talk, Golbeck explains how our actions in digital spaces are used to help determine things about us and in some ways predict what we do in the future. Big brother doesn’t appear to ever really sleep.
Increasingly we are learning how what we considered some randomly posted information is now available for all to see, read, infer and share. From the retweeting of personal photographs to closed communities on Facebook, the general public is learning a lot more about others than they might have ever been interested. The internet is a VERY public space and one where keeping things private means keeping them to yourself, or as Goldbeck suggests we can choose to just “get over it”.