Is there even such a thing as “online privacy?”

Random “selfie” found on the internet.

Is it too much to ask that we can control our own “PR”
 on the internet? Probably. Despite measures like California’s four-year-old law that gives minors the ability to erase their own online profiles, it’s a simple fact of life: You cannot control your image or information on the internet. The best you can do is try to guard the most personal stuff from being used against you.

If anyone ever took a picture of you, even without your knowledge in a public place, it’s probably made its way to the internet. If you’ve ever done anything remotely embarrassing, it’s probably on someone’s facebook wall. (I personally have a number of embarrassingly geeky images of myself out there.) If you’ve ever worked on a political campaign, given money to a charity, signed an online petition… it’s out there. If you’ve ever paid for anything with a credit card, even if it’s not on a web site, it’s there somewhere.

The old advice of “just don’t do anything online” doesn’t help. Even if this were actually possible, you can’t avoid creating an online trail unless you live 100% in cash, never rent from anyone, never get a job, never register for Social Security or register to vote, never get a driver’s license… in other words you have to be living off the land in northern Montana to make this happen, and that’s just not going to happen.

It’s a sad fact of life in 2017 that there simply is not any privacy, not like there used to be. If you’re smart you can minimize the damage by keeping your credit card information secure, rotating passwords and that sort of thing, but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about people knowing your bid’ness and that’s not going to change. Think about it, 20 years from now a person will be running for President and there will be photos of him or her on Spring Break in Jamaica in 2007, drunk as a skunk. Everyone will see them.

Is that such a bad thing? Before our grandparents were born, people lived in little villages where everyone knew everyone. People made mistakes but if they were little, embarrassing ones, people forgot. Back then you could go to another city or country and start anew, sure, but most people didn’t. Most people just accepted that they had the right and the responsibility to live in a community where everyone knew everyone and they just made the best of that. Some might even say that things were better then precisely because of the lack of privacy. Maybe where we’re headed now is just where we ought to be.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.