Archive for April, 2011

Privacy: It grows fainter and quainter

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

In a recent workshop on social media for small business, one owner remarked that she didn’t want to start using Facebook for her business because she doesn’t want information about her personal life to be available to strangers online.

After an explanation that it’s now possible to keep business and personal lives separate on Facebook, I flippantly suggested that the era of privacy is over anyway.

Many people under the age of, say, 25, seem comfortable sharing every moment – for better or worse –  with their extended network (often numbering in the thousands) of “friends.” And as that generation ages, our notion of privacy will become ever fainter and quainter. It will become a nostalgic memory, like retirement and puppet shows.

For example, I’ve just learned from CNET.com that the U.S. Department of Justice insists that e-mail messages should not enjoy the same protection as written correspondence or information about phone calls. The difference? Warrants are required when law enforcement officials want corporations to turn over your phone records or letters – but not necessarily e-mail. And DOJ wants to keep it that way.

Why? To make it easier to conduct fast criminal investigations of events that have either transpired our are about to transpire. I can see their point. I can also see why the main law covering such issues needs to be revisited; it was last updated in 1986, about 10 years before most people received their first e-mail.

But I hope the Justice Department softens its stance before privacy really is a thing of the past.