Privacy is a subject that I have written and spoken about for years. I first wrote about privacy exactly seven years ago in 2006 in a column called "Technology Advances, Privacy Declines". Since then, after many speeches, one of the most asked questions has been about privacy. Many of these questions were driven by the use of social media, search and browsers. All to say that for a number of years I have consistently thought about the topic.
When Edward Snowden triggered the release of the NSA documents this past summer, it was a catalyst for me to think more deeply about privacy in the digital age. I ended up writing a few columns about the subject. These columns prompted a suggestion that perhaps I should write a short eBook about the subject - so I did!
Over the course of three months I researched and wrote "Is Privacy Dead? The Future of Privacy in the Digital Age". It has now just become available for purchase on all major sites globally that sell eBooks. You can simply click on the icon of the book to the right to buy a copy from your preferred vendor. It has been priced at $2.99 to prompt sales as I want to provoke a larger social conversation about how we choose to live in a world of greatly diminished privacy.
Also to the right here are links to columns I have written about privacy and a video just completed.
Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to the book.
"I have consistently answered questions about privacy with the same general responses:
- The definition of privacy is mutable; it changes through time. The privacy that our parents and our grandparents had is no longer. Privacy has been greatly diminished.
- There is no longer privacy as we know it due to data always being captured by companies and governments.
- If you want privacy, then you must not participate in the digital world. That it is hypocritical to complain about the lack of privacy if you post information on social media, use the GPS function of your smart phone, surf the Internet, or increasingly, drive on the toll ways and in the cities of America. Don't complain if you are constantly letting convenience and the cool factor of technology trump concerns about privacy.
So when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA and PRISM, the news was of great interest to me. Though the details that we know are chilling, the general themes - that there has been blanket surveillance of citizens and companies and that our elected officials have been less than forthright about these activities - was not a real surprise.
What has been exciting to me is that now we have an open, energized conversation going on about privacy and surveillance. The unfolding of the story only enhances this discussion. The initial revelations led to some clearing of throats by members of Congress and heads of intelligence agencies. The ongoing rewording of press releases and recalibrating of spoken positions by our elected officials is stunning in its conceit and deceit.
The first revelations of course led certain members of Congress to attack Mr. Snowden as a traitor - trying to deflect the conversation - and then to give us assurances that it isn't really full surveillance with a relative free hand. When additional revelations of blanket surveillance were made, this process occurred again. Every time government officials try to minimize what is going on and what they have kept from Americans, new disclosures make them backtrack and reword their comments once again. We are now waiting for what else we will learn that will make our elected leaders again do the word and definition dance. It will continue.
This of course is great theater. What has been somewhat disturbing to me is how the American media is not really opening up a deeper discussion about what privacy we have and what these disclosures mean for a democracy that prides itself on freedom. The story quickly became about where Mr. Snowden would end up in political asylum, whether he is a hero or a traitor, and whether the need to defend us against the threat of global terrorism warrants the loss of our privacy. Mainstream media has stayed at the level of soap opera and has not provoked what is clearly needed - which is a full-scale, open, society-wide discussion about privacy in America, and the world, in the 21st century.
That is the conversation people have been having with me. This led me to write some columns about privacy on my EvolutionShift blog. These columns provoked much thoughtful response, with many people thanking me for expanding their own thinking or changing it. It is these responses and conversations that led to this short book.
While I discuss the issue of security versus privacy, of elected officials being less than honest with their constituents - of course in the name of national security, which is always the reason - I am more interested in the larger issue of privacy and whether we still have it. How has the definition of privacy changed? How might we live in a world without privacy? Why are we concerned about having privacy and is that an outdated concern? How have we knowingly given our privacy away? What might lack of privacy do to change human and social behavior? These are the questions that need to be discussed and collectively answered.
The personalities, the recalibrating of positions by elected officials, the specifics of both surveillance and deceit will continue as an interesting news drama. It is now time for Americans and for humanity to engage in the deeper discussion of privacy. Do we still have it, and how do we choose to live in a world where it is becoming ever more ephemeral?
What is the future of privacy in the digital world? Is privacy dead? How do we live in a world without privacy?
Hopefully, this quick read will provoke you to think and have conversations with others to answer these questions."