I have been fussing around on this topic, mentally writing a blog and contemplating the issues of privacy in the age of electronic access to myriads of information.
Herewith some of the impetus for these thoughts.
# 1--I watched an interview on CBS 60 Minutes today--Julian Assange was the interviewee. Combine that interview with the fact that he is also the topic of the New York Times Sunday magazine--quite some exposure for an incredibly self-assured cocky self-righteous self-designated savior of the world young man.
# 2--we recently went to see the movie The Social Network. This movie recounts the creation of that most ubiquitous of websites--Facebook--from its days of infancy as the brain child of Mark Zuckerberg, while he was a student at Harvard. Of course, those of us who now have Facebook profiles are constantly being warned about guarding our privacy on our Facebook settings. Why, even Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook profile was hacked, just the other day. (Oh, if only I were teaching a literature course right now--that would be the PERFECT example of irony.)
# 3--a blogger whose wonderful writing I have been reading indicated, right after the horrific shootings in Tucson, that the writer of one of the blogs she reads--by someone named Ashleigh Burroughs--was one of the victims. So, I scooted off to The Burrow to read what I could. I am naturally curious, and wanted details. I read a couple of posts--posted from before the shootings, and after. I learned--via a post her daughter made--that she was doing as well as might be expected, for someone who had been shot and survived. It wasn't until days after I began reading that the proverbial lightbulb went off. Several clues, along with her being "outed" by her own admission, made me understand--I had been reading Suzi Hileman's blog.
I include this last example because it speaks directly to the issue of privacy in the age of electronic information overload. She had decided, when she began blogging, to use a nom-de-plume. In the context of her blog, she became Ashleigh. And people read her blog, responding to her, calling her Ashleigh. She wanted this other persona, no doubt for many reasons, but at least in part to preserve privacy.
When I began blogging, I used my own version of a nom-de-plume. Not a full fledged alternative identity, but one which did not use my real name. Over time, most people have figured it out. That has been part of the fun of blogging for me--figuring out the names behind the pseudonyms bloggers choose to use. I understand completely the desire for privacy.
In this electronic age, some people choose to go entirely underground--no online identity of any kind. That kind of anonymity is very hard to achieve and maintain. Frankly, our identities are practically plastered all over the place--what the electronic age with the Internet has done has made it EASIER to find out someone's name, address, phone number and maybe much more. I recently made a request to put a list of names and addresses online, and got the response--what about privacy? My first thought was--those names and addresses are available in any phone book. Even when the paper version of the phone book goes away, the online version will still be there.
So, how do I pull together the three impetus inspirations for this blog. Certainly what Julian Assange has done is a cautionary tale. He has decided that it is his right, no--make that his duty to share information with the world. He believes that only the harsh light of revelation can lead people to make correct decisions. The information he deals in is weighty--world-changing in fact. Privacy be damned, inan Assange world, we all have the RIGHT to know whatever, even if it results in someone's being killed--as it surely has. Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild Facebook demonstrates that no tidbit of information is too trivial to keep it from being shared. Sadly, there are people who use such a social network to berate, belittle and besmirch people. Information becomes a cudgel with that approach. The world of blogging is different from the first two examples. The exposure there is slower developing--some blogs may have large readerships, but most probably do not. Sometimes bloggers long for more readers, but certainly not at the cost of what Suzi Hileman has had to endure.
Truth be told, I really don't know where my thoughts are going. I certainly prefer privacy, but I also love information. Are the two irreconcilable?
Anyone out there have an answer? Anyone?