An American Paradox – Social Media and Privacy

[adsanity id=2045 align=alignright /]This whole issue of Privacy interests me because we seem to be very sensitive to it when it comes to our personal privacy.  Yet, I am continually amazed by the personal and often intimate details that people put on Facebook.  I am a true believer in the power of social media but I also understand that you are putting something out there on a forum that is eternal (unless you remove it) and do you really want to share such personal details (even with people you actually know, never mind strangers).  It seems people have no “filters” when it comes to social media but plenty to say when they feel their privacy is being invaded by someone else, i.e. the government, Google, Facebook, etc.  Here is a true paradox, people on Facebook complaining about Privacy Issues on Facebook.  Why don’t they just disengage?

Picture1I recently wrote an extensive paper on this subject and thought I’d write a blog about it.  As a lover of history, especially early American history through the Civil War, I wondered if today’s issues with “privacy” were new to us.  The answer is “no”.   It seems we have wrestled with this since the Puritans first landed on our shores in the 1600’s.  They believed that there was no personal privacy and that you should keep an eye on  your neighbor to see what they were up to.  Of course, privacy in the home was non-existent then as people shared small spaces and often slept in the same bed.

[adsanity id=1295 align=alignright /]Things didn’t change a whole lot through the 1700’s.  It was not until 1787 that mail confidentiality is enforced and not until the mid-1800’s that you could seal an envelope when mailing something.  Yet, from the very first census in 1787, Americans were skeptical about their government knowing too much about them.

As we progress through our history into the 20th Century, we have the telephone which became a device for bugging and through that allowed the American public to eventually learn about Watergate.  The Cold War where Americans wanted their government to find the “communists”.  I guess spying is okay if it’s on the “other guy”.  James Bond and Get Smart entertained us with all the various “spy” devices and tactics.

Most recently the Wikileaks and the N.S.A. Surveillance issues have Americans wondering what is going on with their government and the information they are gathering.   In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, Americans supported the NSA tactics to gather information.  Interestingly, this was more favored by Democrats and Liberals.  This is the opposite of what was the case during the Bush Administration regarding privacy and security.   Hmmm….?

This privacy stuff gets very confusing.  Our Bill of Rights didn’t expressly address it although our First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendments have developed case law.  Now our Second Amendment comes into the act as we wrestle with horrific violence and our right to bear arms.  Should our government know if we have personal weapons?  There’s that privacy thing again.

I believe this paradox will continue as we wrestle with social media and all the new advances in technology such as GPS tracking and cell phones.  At the same time we are dealing with terrorism and the need to feel secure.  What are your thoughts?

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