Your device puts you in public

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy (photos via Thinkstock

Is there such a thing as digital privacy

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 25, 2015

The more we know, the more frightened we become, but that shouldn’t be the case. Technology has pushed people to the fringes of paranoia. The devices in our bags and pockets know more about us today than our parents do. Every action we make, every item we purchase, and every person we correspond with is ultimately recorded to some hard drive library or in the ether. And that data is combined into a harmless stat for marketers, law enforcers, and other faceless benefactors.

While it seems like we are closer to an Orwellian present, we are far from danger. I don’t believe information will be used against us for evil—at least, not unless we’ve done something wrong. I think what people need to start understanding is that the device they hold in their hand as they fall asleep at night is as close to being in a public place as waiting for the bus on the side of the road. Whatever you are doing is not important, but someone will probably see you. They might just be passing by in a vehicle or strolling by minding their own business, but you are there.

There are witnesses for our actions. Behaving as if the world is watching should in fact be our way of thinking when we use our smartphone to log onto the Internet. We have grown too comfortable with our devices. We treat them as our closest ally, never to betray us. But in fact it’s not your friend, it’s inanimate, and it’s a window into the outside world. Living through your device is essentially living in a glass house for everyone to see.

The devices are not the scary things. There is nothing scary about tools and appliances. We should not worry about an oven, but we should worry that if we leave the oven on, we’ll probably burn down our house. We are only now beginning to understand the damage our negligence can do through our electronic devices. Maybe there will never be a day when people are arrested for being drunk on the Internet. But being belligerent and harmful online is by no means an un-punishable act.

We need to start using our devices with responsibility. We need to learn that what we do there is not private. Even if you have a passcode to your phone and a complicated password for your accounts, someone somewhere knows it. A device is not a home you can secure, it’s a vehicle that takes you to sites worth visiting, and you share these sites with billions of other people.

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