I had a long talk with my father this week about, well, everything. One of the things that came up was publishing online, and how uncomfortable he was with the idea of things like Facebook. One of his main worries was, basically, the unreasonable amount of information that sickos can get about families, young people, etc, with minimal effort.
Talking to him about this crystallized one of the key separations between the generational definitions of privacy - the relative availability of information.
Not that long ago, it was legitimately simple to know your neighbours, and legitimately difficult to get information about them if they didn’t want it to be public knowledge. The main thing is, information was relatively scarce at this time. References only existed for public knowledge, and institutional knowledge or personal knowledge was either ephemeral, or buried in a drawer somewhere.
My father grew up in a time where you knew all of the people around you. And in a time where had there been information available about them, it had limited enough competition that you would be willing to consume it. Basically, personal information in that societal context is expressed as gossip - you know about someone’s life because it has become a topic of scandalous discussion, or because they told you themselves.
By contrast, I’ve been on the internet since I was about 13. When a friend mentions going on a date, I can idly google the person they went out with, to remind myself if I actually know them. But I have to go looking for information, more often than not. And I need to be so interested in it that I rank that desire higher than my other interests.
In the current world, the assumption that someone who doesn’t know you, would be interested in looking at your social network info, etc, comes off as mildly arrogant.
In the past, privacy was a matter of security by obscurity - hiding personal information about yourself so those interested couldn’t find it. Now, we seem to be operating in a world of volume-based anonymity - unless you’re notable for a specific reason, the likelihood of YOU being the person who gets the sicko looking through every old facebook post feels on par with the likelihood of winning the lottery.
I’m not arguing that proper security, or privacy settings, aren’t important. I’m just pointing out that they don’t FEEL important, because we assume that as private individuals, we’re statistically insignificant. We feel anonymous online, the same way people do in a riot. Just because that anonymity is completely fictional, doesn’t seem to discourage us.