Lately, I’ve been thinking about privacy. Whenever that subject comes up, the knee jerk reaction seems to be paranoia about corporations, governments or the ubiquitous “them” watching us all. We worry about invasions of privacy, about people stealing our data and selling it. We worry about the NSA.
And these are all valid concerns; we should think about data ownership, and we should concern ourselves with who exactly is looking at our information. But I think there’s another privacy concern that we forget about all too quickly.
It has to do with friendship, with levels of friendship. I think there is a real problem when we give everyone on, for example, our Facebook friend list an all access pass to the details of our lives. Where once upon a time we would have shared our precious engagement or baptism photos with a few close and proven friends, these days we broadcast them to a bloated roster of random acquaintances, former hookups and our mum’s cousin’s barber.
Does that do us any harm? In the short term, probably not.
Does it harm our definitions and boundaries of friendship? I think it would be impossible to argue that it doesn’t.
Perhaps privacy should be given out in small parcels, to a trusted few. It can be a real, tangible way of measuring the worth of the people in our lives and showing to them that they matter and that we care about them. Our favourite coffee shops, latest music recommendations and random can still end up on Facebook. But the news of a loved one’s death, an engagement or a pregnancy? That can be spread around privately, for the eyes of the people we couldn’t do without.
Think about your privacy. Not just about who is spying on you, but who has the right to be shown the things you show. Who has earned that privilege through their love and support?