Information and Resources for Solopreneurs

Do You Still Believe That Privacy Exists? Is It Dead?

Written By: Ken Evoy (CEO, SiteSell) in Ken's Blog | November 23, 2010

Ken’s Blog

I just read an interesting post in a thread in the SBI! Forums, worrying about Facebook privacy.

Let’s widen it to privacy in general.

I’d love to hear your take on privacy. Here’s mine…

Talk to your kids. They don’t care. As that generation takes over, they still won’t care. It’s their world and they are used to it.

What’s the bottom line?…

Privacy is being irreversibly eroded by big government, big business, big everything. And you know what?

The less privacy you have, the easier it is to do things.

Or, to put it the right way around… the more privacy you want, the harder it is to live.

Want total privacy? Get off the grid. No credit cards. Pay cash. Be self-sufficient in every aspect of your life (water, electricity). You probably should have done it at birth, but it’s not too late for your unborn children.

Anyway, with tongue half in cheek and foot half in mouth, but with a great dose of serious reflection mixed in…

Privacy is dead.

I’m not saying that’s a good thing or bad. I’m just saying it.

OK, time for a barnburner…

Is privacy dead?

All the best,

P.S. People take the word “dead” too literally in provocative headlines. It’s like they never got past the “concrete thinker” stage. It really means “damaged or eroded or reduced to the point of no return, that its demise is inevitable even if that’s not today or tomorrow.”

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Ken Evoy (CEO, SiteSell)
Ken Evoy is the Founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of SiteSell Inc. He is the creator of SBI!, SiteSell's comprehensive Web business-building system. Ken is also a successful inventor, author, and emergency physician. He feels strongly that solopreneurs can be empowered by leveraging their income building potential online.
Ken Evoy (CEO, SiteSell)

Latest posts by Ken Evoy (CEO, SiteSell) (see all)

  • Privacy does exist but people are giving it away. You mentioned big government but also small government.
    I get caught up in giving away some detailed information without even thinking about it. I went and changed a lot of things.
    For example, I don’t give my date of birth anymore. I give a fake one. If i’m not comfortable giving something and Im forced to, I will make it up.
    On the other hand, a lot of companies are going to all digital information, especially medical facilities. How often do you hear about some system getting hacked and millions of people’s information is missing.
    in some regards it is dead. In others, we control what we share and a lot of people are freely sharing a lot of information.
    A former co worker is on unemployment. He is taking trips all over the place and putting all these trips on his facebook. If the government visits his facebook and sees he is taking trips, which they have a record of, he is in deep trouble.
    I saw an article that the local sheriff dept signed up for facebook and want people to friend them. Gives them access to see what everyone is up to without a court order.

  • jim

    I think you are taking a wrong approach, when it comes to children not caring.
    The importance of privacy and what a totalitarian police looks like (think East Germany), and why such an outcome is not desirable should be taught from as early on as possible.
    The technologies might have changed, but people have not.
    Would you have given up on advocating for a society free from oppression in the late 1930’s if Facebook had been around and used as a totalitarian tool?

  • John Dilbeck

    Hi Ken,
    My life is pretty much an open book.
    I used to worry about privacy, but made the decision a few years ago to just be myself and let the world see me as I am. (Or, at least, as I think I am.)
    Earlier this year, I faced a new decision. Should I talk about my illness? How would it affect my business and what would my friends say?
    I found that being more open was a good thing. I got lots of support from friends I haven’t seen for decades and from friends I’ve never met in person.
    A few people unsubscribed to various feeds and sent a few emails saying they didn’t want to hear about such things, but that’s okay. Being open was much more beneficial than avoiding the issue would have been.
    I’m not totally open, however. I don’t talk about religion and politics online and only refer to sex tangentially, and usually in a humorous manner (hopefully it is seen as humorous by others).
    I’m not concerned about privacy, but I don’t want to get into divisive arguments and debates.
    Some people call this transparency. I’m for it.
    All the best,

  • CL Atkins

    I believe that privacy is dead in general among the younger generation.
    To me it is a sad situation. Once a group of people are willing to give up ALL their privacy, it becomes very easy for that group to be controlled by big government.
    It is my opinion that the government as well as big business has cultivated this to some extent.
    While I enjoy the modern conveniences of computers and all they have to offer, a human being does need some place they can go and have their private me time.

  • I have to agree with you, Ken, about the issue of privacy being dead,…”damaged or eroded or reduced to the point of no return, that its demise is inevitable even if that’s not today or tomorrow.” It’s a sad, but true statement in life today. The scary part of this is knowing that there are preditors out there looking for what people (children and adults) are freely revealing about themselves. It’s bad enough already that our privacy’s are being stolen by big government out of fear. It is now the beginning to be a thing of the past.

  • There seems to be cameras everywhere. I may have been watching too much CSI but almost everywhere you go you are on candid camera. The way I see it, if you are doing good things and treating people with respect, you are on record for that. A big fear of mine used to be ending up in jail for something I didn’t do or having a loved one wrongfully charged. The more we are open, the more chance that we will have freedom. There are a million thoughts on one subject alone. This is only one. Thanks, Ken for the ‘food for thought’.

  • I used to work in banking and occasionally had the odd client that would refuse to provide a SIN number, citing privacy reasons, but very, very few. OTOH, one client actually legally changed his name to a number out of protest!!!
    While it is true that we all used to live in small villages where everyone knew everybody’s business, it is also true that one of the attractions of life in a large urban center is the relative anonymity it provides.
    The way I see it, as long as we humans remain judgmental about others that don’t live to our standards, then the social desire for privacy will continue to exist.
    As long as there are criminal predators online, we need to ensure privacy.
    Then, add to that the abuses of power that become available to large organizations of all types (church, government, police, business, even associations) then the social NEED for privacy will continue to exist.
    For that matter, there is also the need for all of us on the internet, as individuals and as marketers, to rein in our own “curious” tendencies so as not to abuse the power of too much information too.
    Think of the possible damage done by wrong information posted on Twitter, Facebook of other instantaneous information sharing networks.
    Maintaining some semblance of privacy – maybe by using a smokescreen of false information – will somehow have to be part of the picture if we want to maintain integrity and social cohesion.
    That’s my two and a half cents…

  • Privacy? I have come to think that this is “big city dweller” fantasy. When we all used to be born and live most of our lives in villages of less than 500 people … we all knew each other … and we all knew what the others had done or not done and what they were up to.
    There was next to no privacy then.
    Let me tell you an anecdote.
    About two years ago (2008) I decided I wanted to get cable TV where we had moved. So I called the cable TV company that I had dealt with in the past (early 80’s) where I used to live (big suburb of Montreal).
    Please note. More than a quarter of century had elapsed.
    I was on the phone with the agent. She was asking questions. I was supplying answers. She was obviously filling in the blanks on a form on her computer.
    Then she asked for my social security number. I balked. I told her I was NOT going to give her my social security number to subscribe to cable TV. Besides (I told her) “do you know that it is illegal to even ask me for my social security number for this type of service”?
    … a few moments of silence during which I can hear her typing away on the keyboard. I’m thinking … she is recording my protest! I’m beginning to be impressed … but then she lands the big one …
    Mr Jollet?
    Was one of your previous adresses XXX, on YYY, in ZZZ?
    Oh! Well then. We HAVE your social security number! It’s xxx xxx xxx …
    Now I kid you not. We were on the phone, yet I could clearly *see* the victorious smirk on her face!
    So much for privacy.
    Forget it. Much of it is gone.
    But I still intend to fight for what shreds of it I have left … just for the fun of it.
    Know what? There is so much crap being thrown on the Web nowadays that it takes significant effort to tell what’s fact or fiction, what’s useful or not.
    There is a measure of safety in relative anonymity 😉
    P.S. I did not subscribe to the cable company’s services.
    P.P.S The scary part of it is that, if the agent on the phone had not revealed that they already had my SSN and, yet, had said that they would allow me to become a subscriber anyway … I would probably have fallen for it … thinking that I had won!

  • Maintaining a degree of privacy is important to me – financial, religious, medical matters are things I prefer to keep to myself. However, I’m not anonymous and nor do I want to be.
    I’ve lived in small villages all my life so I’m used to people knowing who I am, where my car is parked up, what my preferences are in the village shop etc, whether I pay by cash or card. If you Google my name you can easily find where I live, my phone number, hobbies, highs and lows in my life. I’m comfortable with this.
    For me its matter of balance – like Claude, I would be concerned about giving unnecessary information to businesses, when all I want to do is shop with them. Shopping on line is part of life for most people these days, but if a registration requires too much personal information is required, I’m gone.
    Bottom line for me is protect what really matters to you, but otherwise don’t be too concerned.

  • Like most people, I suspect, I am a very boring person…
    I have no skeletons in my closet (no big ones, anyway).
    I don’t break the law (well, maybe a few tiny ones – but they don’t really count).
    I do nothing I would later be ashamed of (just mildly embarrassed).
    So I really have no problem with my life being an open book.
    The so-called erosion of privacy surely is not some Orwellian conspiracy, just sensible measures designed to benefit the majority and penalize the tiny minority who really DO have something to hide.

  • Jan Willem

    I recall a time when we were playing hide and seek on a small beach at a local pond. One, with eyes closed, counted down till zero. While the rest of us tried to hide behind everything a beach had to give.
    I was particular visible, with a headband holding some gummy earplugs, which had to prevent water entering my eardrums.
    At one point I had this brilliant idea. Headband off, i lied down on the beach, towel over my head, just 5 meters away from the kid, who was counting down.
    He didn’t find me.
    Hiding in the crowds is one of the best privacy methods there is.
    To that; privacy can only be give away when you act and reveal one or more personal preferences.
    This means that privacy is gained and lost, by your choice, in every singe instant where you “trade” with your name.
    I’ m afraid I started this little barn fire, And Ken gladly amplified with a gallon of gasoline.
    Concluding: You do have a choice, every singe instance, whether you submit or give away personal information or decline to reveal yourself.
    Privacy is not lost, if you don’t give it away!
    As for kids, not being aware, or don’t care, they are not capable of evaluating the consequences of “giving away” private information.
    They do not choose, consciously weighting advantages or disadvantages, They pick and do as they feel, that moment of the day.
    I feel that Parents need to protect them from accidental or playful loss of privacy. Take the use of facebook by kids for instance or x-ting by kids. Privacy awareness is a part of growing up.
    And I don’t feel the need to have our growing up process being undone by overly corporate interests.

  • Cliff

    I consider myself a private person. I try not to give more information about myself than I need to. I won’t register for a site that requires more than the minimum.
    But what about what others post about you.
    In genealogy circles it is well known that you do not post the details of a living person, such as their mother’s maiden name, address, spouse’s name, etc., lest it be used in identity fraud. However, my elderly amateur genealogist father, in order to post writings of his accomplishments, has posted himself as dead on his genealogy site.
    However ill conceived, I suppose that is his right. However, he has also posted that I “was born, christened and died.” He wrote about me, giving my wife’s and children’s names, locations and other identifying information in close proximity to our mothers’ maiden names.
    Though he has promised to remove that information several times at my insistence, he has not. He can’t see the problem. Even though he knows about identity theft, he says he won’t be “negative,” only living his life in a positive way.
    I have read about people being targeted as a result of what others have divulged about them on Facebook. How can you possibly stop that?

  • Gina

    I went from big city to small village and I know that everyone knows what I’m up to but I don’t care.
    Well, the Internet has given us the global village, a marvellous place full of generous people, sharing and helping each other.
    The loss of privacy seems to go hand in hand with that: a small price to pay, I say.

  • K.

    Privacy is a different concept for younger individuals, who are not likely to have the life experience of identity theft, stalking, daily harassment from aggressive marketers ( I get an average of 3-5 such calls per day at work), and much more. As a youth, and into my 20s, I also had no concern about privacy. However, a few years down the road, I’ve become more aware of the problems that come with lack of privacy. I’m certain today’s youth will have a change of heart in another decade or so.

  • I think the biggest issue we’ll face in this regard is not privacy itself. That is buried and long gone.
    The issue is whether we ourselves will be able in the future to get insight on the data that is collected about us, and analyse whether it’s correct. And of course, if we will be enabled to corret wrong data that’s collected (ex. you are listed as ‘dead’, but you aren’t).

  • Jeff Wick

    What is the meaning of personal privacy today? Why is secrecy in our genes? What is this fear of standing on our hind legs and being known for who we are?
    Do we fear that public scrutiny will shame us dead? Will we lose physical or financial security?
    If aspects of our life are known intimately by others, do we become weaker? Will our core being become crippled so we can no longer learn, change, and seek happiness?
    Our boomer-minds were trained to connect privacy with control. Our rant was: “Big Government” is actively seeking CONTROL of our lives. Stay beneath all radar or you’ll become one of them.
    I’m old, but I think the young people have this figured out. If “Big” anything tries to rob our freedom, then we will deal with that as a separate issue.
    Obsessive inflexible attitudes about privacy prevent one from connecting and operating in the world as it is now.
    Hiding in your “privy” is no way to go. It’s just a cold hut in the dark woods.
    There is no power there.

  • Wow, I’m blown away.
    And disappointed. I expected to pull out a few pro-privacy rants. 😉 They’re not wrong, just not realistic…
    Tortoise Reality Theory #3
    The posts here are al incredibly interesting, original and well thought out.
    My bottom line on this is…
    “It is what it is.” Wishing it wasn’t so doesn’t change it.
    Hey, when I get scanned at Logan Airport by one of those new low-radiation scanners (that sees through your clothes)…
    Privacy is over.
    All the best,

  • Jack

    Like many of the people who have already posted here, I don’t feel that I have much in my life that I want to hide because I’m ashamed, but perhaps out of custom there are many things that I don’t feel comfortable making public.
    I agree with Ken in as much as privacy is a dead concept, but there is another aspect of the whole issue which no one, so far, seems to have voiced, that I have only recently had to deal with.
    The point is that if your personal information is kept private, or doesn’t conform to generally acceptable standards, your life where you have to deal with both governments and large corporations is already complicated, and will likely become more so as times goes on.
    I’m not speculating about this … I am currently in the midst of a very frustrating situation which I don’t wish to elaborate on because it is still unresolved. In the meantime, I have seen a pile of documents which is about 4 inches thick that has been collected about me over the past few weeks by just one person who is working on my issue.
    Don’t delude yourself over how much of your life is really private!

  • Cindy

    Okay, call me weird, I can take it.
    This privacy issue IS like a bad Sci Fi movie. Or a good one, like The Matrix. 😉 It also reminds me of many Twilight Zone episodes.
    On a pro-privacy note, perhaps all that media exposure was just a way to desensitize us to the upcoming eventuality.
    The fact that we talk about it, think about it is good. That way we can become savvy and proactive.
    I do believe that right now, most of the intentions are good when it comes to privacy. It creates expediency and like you said, Ken, makes everything easier.
    But I believe we should steel ourselves to ensure we don’t get complacent. The waiving of rights without examining the consequences is not good.

  • David

    This is one the most significant issues ever addressed. It’s also one the most debated. To a large degree “privacy” is completely in one’s control. Assume, however, that everything you type online will be kept (someplace) forever, as well as all info given to strangers through any medium (phone, credit, mortgages etc.).
    Naturally, the more naive (or sincere) one is and more info is given out…’s OUT…no getting it back.
    But what’s wrong with that?
    See, THIS is where the “rub” is.
    If the Good Guys are honest-then there’s no reason to feign from telling everyone like it is(because one has NOTHING to hide). In other words, breaking down walls and creating transparency is a good thing so we, as consumers, parents, business owners etc. can “see” the truth (see who is naughty and who is nice).
    In that sense, I like being able to tell who is Truthful, and who should be behind bars.
    However, because there are so many “not-so-nice” people out there, having them able to find my daughter and minor children with 1-2 “clicks” is daunting and frankly horrifying, but it is Reality today.
    It goes back to Moderation. “Moderation the means between an excess and a defect” -Aristotle. Privacy in small towns, small colleges and the like was non-existent. But the “transparency” is Good. It works as a check and balance to govern behavior.
    The Internet and FREE societies are more regulated than ever before in history…I must concede and agree that BIG Government, Big (Small governments), International Corporations and even BIG Travel Industries (all of which have all our Vital info) have Very Loose Privacy Rules.
    Add BIG economic meltdowns that cause people to give “all information to everyone all the time” just to survive, leaving most people at the mercy of those that trade our personal information as though it were non-human stocks/commodities.
    Privacy is not yet “Dead”…but it has a Reserved Seat… and seems to have been read its “Last Rights”…for now.
    At the Core is thinking about Serenity…What can we control, what we can’t, and praying for the serenity to tell the difference.
    Happy Holidays to all and God Bless..

  • I moved house not too long ago and one day a rather intimidating gent, representing a Government agency, knocked on the door. He was looking for the previous resident in relation to an unpaid parking fine.
    I politely declined his request to provide my name, date of birth and a copy of my driving licence to prove I wasn’t the person he was looking for.
    He became a little heated and even more intimidating when I asked him for his name, address, date of birth and a copy of his driving licence, as the ID card he presented could have been produced on a home computer and printer in 2 minutes flat.
    He didn’t really know what to do and became rather insistent that, I prove who I was not.
    I politely informed him that I would only produce my details to a recognised law enforcement officer and not in his presence and only on the understanding that he would not be provided with my details.
    Suffice to say that he eventually went on his unhappy way absolutely astounded that anyone would refuse to produce personal information when asked.
    His parting comment was, “They’ll just send me back.”, to which I requested he bring a police officer with him next time.
    The point here isn’t about privacy, it’s about our unthinking acceptance that anyone and everyone has a right to our personal information.
    The erosion of privacy begins and ends with Government and big business realising they can demand anything and everything, under threat of non-supply or penalty.
    Stopping the erosion simply involves saying no, and we should be educating our children to automatically say no, instead of obediently, automatically saying yes.

  • A. Rivera

    I don’t think all privacy is dead but, as soon as you log onto your computer or step outside your door, your privacy is severely compromised.
    I am a private person, but I knew when I decided to venture onto the internet to do business, and sometimes to socialize, I was going to have to be vigilant with what I “put out there”, and what information I kept to myself.
    I’m talking about things that others seem to put out there thinking it’s harmless information, like… an address and that you live alone; When you’ll be away from home; When someone is hospitalized and for what.
    But even those things can be innocently put out to the world by your friends and relatives in blogs and on Facebook.
    That’s the part that bothers me most about this transparent world we live in; other people being reckless with my information.

  • The US, where I live, is still a pretty young country, like a teenager going through a stage of disrespect for all that went before. Like other teens, you hope it grows up in time to respect privacy before it’s too late.
    For instance, try getting through airport security. I am not convinced the privacy intrusion is warranted or even effective. I agree with the guy who exclaimed, “Don’t touch my junk!”
    We bought real estate once from a guy who was selling everything and dropping off the grid. Maybe he had it right.
    Regardless of not having something to hide, privacy deserves and requires protection. It is what freedom is based on.

  • I don’t believe in privacy anymore. Especially now, after this story with If somebody hadn’t heard yet, it’s the site that leaks secret information by publishing secret official documents. What else can we expect. So far privacy is only in our heads. We still have a privilege to think what we want without fearing that others will hear our thoughts. But in the future, who knows…

  • Yes, it is dead! That is exactly what hurts.
    For normal people (sorry to classify people this way) it does not matter. However, for other people and I mean politically active people, it matters a lot.
    For example, I received mails, yes mails by pots from people I do not know in India, with their phone numbers to breach a religion, I supposed to be following it by nature. I was very surprised to have somebody teaching me my religion, so I fu’ it off and went to the post explaining that I do not know those people and feel my privacy is in danger. I asked them how they knew my address.
    The post did not stop. I took up the phone that time and called those folk in India telling them that no one will ever follow a religion that infringes others’ privacy and politely, I told them that I will submit all their messages to the concerned authorities if they did not stop it. They stopped. I then realized that they have local agents where I leave, preaching the UN laws and even the laws of their country leaking information about people out.
    What happens in FB is absolutely wrong and antagonizing. In other services, the matter goes on and they just do not understand that privacy is very important to some people and they should not use it the wrong way especially when it involves personal dangers.
    My security system alerted me while using one of those services mentioned here and put it literally as (Services blocked because they submit personal information to third parties). The other day, I noticed bad behaviour while I was paying for something online, so I went to my bank and cancelled my card.
    To this level, I think all people concerned should revolt and keep away from such businesses because the lives of people are not a play. You decide what information you wanted to share, but not all. You can also keep your personal address secure by law.

  • I am not sure that it was natural not to have privacy in a small village. I have spent my entire life living on a small island with small villages and to my mind there has always been lots of privacy…
    I must agree with the point that you knew generally what people were doing; however privacy still exist even among families.
    The fact that the amount of privacy one has today is being eroded probaly has more to do with this digital communication era than anything else. So I would agree privacy is dead since with the growth of the Internet there is no turning back at this stage.
    However I strongly believe that every one of us has a role to play and where there is need for privacy we should be vigilant and responsible.
    This would include taking the welfare and sensibilities of everyone into account.

  • I think today’s society isn’t as concerned about privacy as transparency.
    Here’s an example:
    Blizzard Entertainment makers of World of Warcraft, a mass-multi player online game with over 12 million people world wide has their own forums.
    Their forums are for subscribers only but with so many people there is massive trolling.
    So Blizzard decided to use what they called “Real Id” and make everyone post using their real names- the names given when people subscribed to the game, sometimes as long as 5 year prior to the announcement and under the implied agreement that their name, email and physical address would be as confidential as their credit card number.
    People were outraged. And I can say I was one of them.
    (The thread which had over 950 PAGES of replies in less than 48 hours is no longer available- they are revamping their whole site)
    Understand too that the forums are required for technical support so posting or not posting isn’t always optional.
    This was a huge deal not only because people didn’t give permission but because of many other concerns.
    Some players were concerned about being stalked, women were afraid of men making advances at them – in ‘real life’ and ‘in game’, some were afraid of potential employers (or dates) googling them and discriminating based on the negative stigma given to gamers.
    Within that time frame some people -including a Blizzard employee- gave their real names attempting to prove this was totally safe and where found.
    They got emails, phone calls at home, work, school, their parents and siblings houses, posts on their facebook and twitter account from people who had found them. This of course just fueled the fire.
    In the end Blizzard dropped the idea because the community was so outraged. Real Id is now optional in game. Players can share their email address with people they trust and essentially become ‘friends.’
    Once friends you can see when anyone on your friends list is logged into any Blizzard game. They’ve also linked up with Facebook to help people import their friends list as another option.
    And these in game changes are accepted because they are optional and the user decides how much privacy to give away.
    The point:
    People opted in to Blizzard’s game and gave truthful information because they trusted Blizzard to keep it secure.
    Said more generally, Trust and Transparency are the new privacy.
    I think this is true everywhere online.

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