iStock_000022245319XSmallPrivacy is not a legal issue anymore. It’s too late. Now privacy is a technical choice.

We walk around with GPS tracking devices in our pockets. They are installed in our cars too. We tag ourselves in public photos, tweet where we are and who we’re with, and give intimate descriptions of our lives on Facebook.

We use loyalty cards that track what we buy and how often we buy it. Every time we pay with a debit or credit card, the merchant can recognize us based on past transactions.

We fill out customer surveys that give an even deeper layer of ourselves, our families, our finances, and our lives. Why do we tell companies how much money we make a year?

For a hundred bucks we can spit in a tube and get our entire DNA profiles including detailed health information and the ability to connect to anyone related to us that has also done the test. And because it’s so easy and noninvasive, the Supreme Court recently decided that the police don’t need a warrant to collect a DNA sample.

So why are we so surprised that companies and the government are interested in this information and are collecting and tracking it?

In some ways, it’s just archeology in real time.

In others, the very concept of public versus private is changing.

Anything we do in public is not private. Any secret we give away is not private. Most of what we do has never been private. It was just much harder for someone else to pay attention.

Although the Supreme Court has not ruled whether the internet is public, it has described it that way.

“The internet constitutes a vast platform from which to address and hear from a worldwide audience of millions of readers, viewers, researchers, and buyers.” Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997).

And if the government wants private information about us, the only thing standing in its way is a warrant or a subpoena. Warrants are not hard to get. Subpoenas are even easier.

The truth is, it’s never been hard to figure out where you go, who you’re with, what you read and watch on tv, who you talk to on the phone, and who you hang out with. Technology has just made it easier.

And since technology has enabled new levels of data that can be revealed, there is absolutely no reason why technology can’t also hide it. Already, there are websites and programs designed to anonymize IP addresses and activity online.

It won’t be long before someone comes along with the privacy app that allows us to control our personal data, authorize who gets to use it, and to sell it. But when it comes out, get if fast before Google or Facebook buys it and shuts it down.

In the meantime, stop giving away information you don’t want public. Don’t fill out surveys. Or if you do, don’t give accurate information. Turn your phone off. Get rid of loyalty cards. Delete your cookies regularly. Or don’t. Much of it is up to you.

But do understand that everything you do with a phone, a computer, or a card with a magnetic strip leaves digital breadcrumbs that can be collected and analyzed.

Further Reading:

NSA Surveillance News: Everything You Need to Know (Mashable)

We Are Shocked, Shocked (by David Simon)

Privacy is an App

Data is Evidence

Information Privacy 1- Is Privacy an Illusion

Information Privacy 2 – Online Data & Social Media

Information Privacy 3- What Are Your Privacy Rights?

Information Privacy 4- New Laws and Issues

Information Privacy 5-Future and Issues in HR

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