Privacy – and networked hypocrisy – begins at home

I’ve been arguing for years that the Internet holds up a mirror to human nature. And much of what we see in that mirror isn’t flattering. But that doesn’t stop us blaming the mirror rather than addressing the awkward questions that our reflected behaviour reveals. The result is stinking hypocrisy. Evan Selinger makes this point forcefully in the CS Monitor today:

When people lament that privacy is dead or dying, they typically point fingers outwards, saying that government and corporate surveillance deserve all the blame. But as recent events highlight, our urge for online voyeurism plays an important role in the erosion of privacy.

As the Ashley Madison hack had the Internet gawking over details of the possible infidelity of its members, another lurid tragedy was going viral thanks to a woman live tweeting the breakup of a couple sitting next to her on an airplane. Both are examples of people succumbing to their baser instincts and failing to look away when when someone’s personal life is spilled online.

But until we can resist those urges, stop from clicking those articles, and trolling the databases hackers’ victims, we are just encouraging other hackers with an ax to grind, digital eavesdroppers, and snoopers to uncover our private moments and publishing them for the world to see. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like we’ve hit that point of maturity in our collective Internet evolution.

Spot on. For chapter and verse see Jon Ronson’s terrific book — So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.