on media, technology & digital culture

From Private To Public

8fe0068204bf499dc9ec9f7068ea486dAt first, privacy was a very physical notion. The laws written to protect it were related to trespassing and freedom from restraint. However, with the realization of human beings as spiritual beings, their feelings and intellect became an entity that deserves its own rights, including the right to be left alone. It wasn’t long before the term “property” became applicable in both the tangible and intangible sense, which is why the rise of photography and newspapers was considered to be an obvious threat to private life. As our civilization evolved, life became more complex and intense but at the same time revealing, more subject to public scrutiny.

Misuse of private information removes the ability to control and protect your thoughts, feelings and actions beyond the extent of your private space. Even within your private space, that guarantee is no longer valid. What was once thought of as a violation of honor and reputation today is referred to as the violation of basic human rights.

“Something creepy happened when mystery became secular, secrecy became a technology and privacy became a right.”[1] What was once a threat to privacy posed by man today is a threat to privacy posed by both man and machine, with the latter becoming more autonomous as time goes on. “There is no longer a public self, even a rhetorical one. There are only lots of people protecting their privacy, while watching themselves and one another, refracted, endlessly, through a prism of absurd design.”[2]

Today, we live in public because we choose to participate. The networks that provide us with the infrastructure needed to exchange information are practically open sourced but also subject to governmental and corporate scrutiny. Anyone can contribute to them and everyone does. If, by some chance, we would need to seclude ourselves from this network, we risk becoming very ‘private persons’ indeed. Appropriately, that term describes the word ‘idiot’ in Greek. However, in order to participate, we must pay the price. The notion that the Internet is a free medium providing people with free services is far fetched. The reality is that we only changed currencies and data is now the most prevalent one.

Mass surveillance is a global problem. Misuse of private information can have dire consequences not only on people’s lives but also on the overall notion of what is private and what is not. Our digital and physical activities are tracked on a daily basis, whether we think we permitted it or not. Even when we believe we obfuscated our digital selves, there’s an app running in the background making sure that is not entirely correct.

[1]                Lepore, Jill. “Privacy in an Age of Publicity.” The New Yorker. June 23, 2013. Accessed December 7, 2015.

[2]                Ibid.


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This entry was posted on December 16, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .


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