Is Privacy an Anomaly Created by the New Industrial Revolution?



The concept of privacy on the internet is a topic that pushes many buttons. From the SOPA/PIPA blackouts of 2012 to an update to the terms of service on any major social network, people are likely to get very riled up over it. According to The Verge, Google Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf suggested at an FTC event that “privacy may actually be an anomaly.”

He used the story of about growing up in a small town, noting that the postmaster would see every piece of mail everyone was getting and there wasn’t really privacy.

Cerf did qualify that he was oversimplifying his position, but he is of the belief that “it will be increasingly difficult for us to achieve privacy. Though some may bristle at Cerf’s comments, his position that privacy is a fairly recent phenomenon and concern, doesn’t seem all that far from the truth.

Prior to the industrial revolution the majority of the population lived in small communities, where very often everyone knew everyone. Since more and more people have centralized themselves in cities there have been efforts to carve out a private identity in increasingly crowded spaces.

Cerf predicts problems cropping up as people strive to maintain privacy both offline and online, with the presence of the always on nature of social media. He suggests there may be a “need to develop social conventions that are more respectful of people’s privacy.”

Whether it is CCTV cameras in public, smartphone cameras in every pocket, or the random chance of being tagged in a facebook photo you never wanted to see the light of day, people will be wary of what they say and do. Under this gaze of many cameras, many of them connected to the internet, privacy is a tenuous thing.

In a word, it seems that this is the new normal. Cerf closes with a simple thought “This is something we’re gonna have to live through.”

Image credit:  New Media Days

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