Now, more than ever, the world is obsessed with privacy. Don’t believe me? In 2018, Europe passed a brand new policy policy regarding the collection of online data that triggered companies to spend millions of dollars on compliance. Since, some of the largest tech companies in the world have faced lawsuits (think Facebook) over user data disclosure. In the United States specifically, legislation has followed at the state level and is being considered at the Federal Level (read the Consumer Privacy Act here). And it’s not just limited to tech. The Patriot Act passed following 9/11 was partially repealed in 2015 with the USA Freedom Act due to growing concerns over privacy. In January of this year, the California became the first state to put into effect their Consumer Privacy Act.
The flip side of this growing concern is that we are more liberal than ever with how much we are willing to share. Social media allows us to share our feelings, activities and even location in real-time. Topics once considered sensitive have become fair game in the media. Open floor plans in offices have become the default. We share everything. Nothing is off-limits.
Why are we so concerned about our privacy when we so willingly give it away?
About 3.5 billion people use social media platforms every day. For context, this is roughly 45% of the world population. 2/3 U.S. adults are Facebook users, and most millennials agree they are willing to give up personal data to receive something in return. Yet, 91% of Americans surveyed believe they have lost control over their privacy. What gives?
Most of our hypocrisy stems from psychological forces largely beyond our control. Studies have shown that social media use activates reward centers in the brain, particularly in adolescents. So in short, our logic says one thing but our hardwiring says another.
What is the best way forward when faced with a conundrum such as this this? Come back to moderation. The internet has fantastic benefits, as well as serious drawbacks. Concern for privacy is both valid, and overhyped.
Realistically, for most of us there should not be much to hide. From a privacy standpoint, to key is to recognize when you are being targeted based on shared characteristics. If you’re curious, here’s what google knows about me:
I don’t mind the the fact that Google knows I enjoy learning more about fitness, consume an absurd amount of coffee, and love a good book. On the contrary, I appreciate content and product suggestions in those areas. Sharing these pieces of myself with a conglomerate does little to hurt me. Sometimes, it is important to remind ourselves of this fact.
Most of what google (and other platforms/search engines) know about us is a-okay. To quote Taylor Swift, we all need to calm down. But when it comes to the sensitive stuff (our credit cards, our social security numbers, our location in some instances, and overly personal information or images,) we need to self-censor and realize that our privacy-obsessed selves are part of the problem–a problem we can solve by simply practicing what we preach and fighting the urge to overshare, no war against corporate America needed.