Many people, especially those of us over 30, seem concerned about threats to our “privacy”. We cite everything from increased police surveillance cameras to commercial tracking of our every purchase, the whistleblower warnings of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, and our own “privacy commissioners” here in Canada warning us of breeches to our “right to privacy”. We cite these obvious examples, and then we proceed to do our on-line shopping, our credit card purchases, gather our client points, air miles, and accept all the commercial schemes to get us both to buy more stuff and also leave a trail of purchasing and travel for anyone capable of following that trail we’ve left.
Privacy? Who are we kidding? First, the point above, that if we are genuinely concerned about protecting our “privacy”, why do we voluntarily engage in so many of the data-gathering activities of modern life? We talk the talk, sure, then walk in the opposite direction.
Second point: really, privacy? Think about this, before launching a complaint . . . what genuine privacy do we actually have?
Yes, we have the privacy of our own thoughts, tastes, desires, ambitions, and so on – most adopted from advertising or celebrity advice but it seems to me we’re very ready to divulge any of these predilections. We volunteer our privacy many times every day.
The privacy which somehow hides within where we go and when, who we meet, what friends we have, foods we like, politics we support, what groceries we buy, our favourite toothpaste, all things registered by a supermarket cashier. Every time we use a credit or debit card, or points cards, every mail order we make – buy your book from Amazon and have your reading preferences registered forever—that’s the big push in marketing and sales these days: tell the merchants what we want so they can push product our way, day and night. There’s little privacy to our lives after all this.
Or we are saying, without admitting to be doing so, that we wish we had more privacy. If so, why don’t we show our desire for more privacy, apart from these complaints?
Are we accepting the fact that our modern sales-pressured society allows us so little privacy in our lives? And are we perhaps really smarting from a sense that our lives lack not only privacy, but lack meaning – apart from our shopping habits? Are we ready to admit that our complaints about invasions of privacy really mean that our lives lack a lot of meaning and that all this data-gathering is picking off the sole remaining bits of meaning in our lives: our shopping, travelling, reading, eating, and spending habits?
As extreme as a meaningless life sounds, it makes more sense than our complaints about unprotected shopping, because we do the unprotected shopping thing every day. Are we complaining that somewhere, somehow we’ve given up any meaning we once had in our lives?