In “Blurred Lines and the Right to Privacy”, Huffington Post writer Debbie Hines urges people to emotionally connect more with issues of online privacy violation. Ms. Hines boldly claims that the only way she believes action against online privacy violations will be taken is when we feel as emotionally violated in regards to online privacy as we would if someone were to break into our own homes—and she certainly seems to think we should, given that she states that “our online personal data by far out values any possessions in our homes.” She also invokes the Civil Rights movement as another example of a situation where serious action will only be taken when the public becomes emotionally involved. The author’s central inquiry is in regards to what will be the emotional stimulus that will ultimately move us in the direction to take action and protect against online privacy violations?
While I agree that online privacy is important in respect to information that is on the internet without your knowledge and consent, I have to disagree with the general tone of Ms. Hines article. To equate the emotional violation that is online privacy invasions to that of a person’s home being ransacked by burglars is slightly outrageous to me. Though I do not doubt that at least an equivalent amount of both financial and emotional harm could be achieved through both kinds of violations, the way we have been taught to view the internet makes this an incongruous comparison. The internet is premised on the notion of open access to information; it is a forum that we all utilize when seeking out any imaginable type of information. While it’s clear that the author is not referring to limiting this laissez-faire informational exchange, her opinions on such privacy violations seem to negate the general premise, purpose, and intent of the internet.
Furthermore, the expectation of privacy issue needs to be addressed. In our society, we are taught to view our activity on the internet through a distrustful lense. We are continually warned of the pitfalls that come from simply ignoring the privacy settings on social media accounts, let alone the far more damaging threats of identity theft, both in regards to our personal, professional, and financial lives. While I do believe that it would be nice to feel a sense of security on the internet, I just do not think that the public’s expectation of privacy on the internet is particularly high, nor should it be; and it is certainly not near the level of privacy expectation one would have in one’s own home. To feel as secure on the internet would be dangerously naïve, particularly in light of some of the egregious and highly publicized internet privacy violations that the author refers to.
So while I am in no way belittling Ms. Hines proposition, I think that until the internet is a truly safe place, it would be more prudent and practical to instead focus on taking defensive measures to protect ourselves and our online information.