Privacy: God Knows All
So Does the Internet
As Catholic Christians we acknowledge that God is omniscient. From childhood, we have been advised that nothing is completely private. He, who created us, sees all. Even the darkest secrets are eventually brought to light. With this admonition in mind, we seek to live lives geared toward an openness to Truth. A certain compulsion for privacy can lead to the temptation of living a life unbecoming of a Child of God.
Lately, however, another type of privacy has been at issue. It is not a benevolent God Who knows our every move and seeks our conversion. Instead, the world is encroaching into our lives and using its knowledge against us.
Facebook and Privacy
During the Congressional hearings, the world at large began to take notice of the dastardly deeds of Facebook. Intrusion of privacy, manipulation, and false reporting all came out into the light. However, if you think that is all there is to the privacy issues we face, you might want to read on.
Google Knows All
It is seemingly impossible to do anything online without the intrusion of Google. Even if you refrain from using their search engine, they are there – on almost every site you use. Do you search for topic on a blog? Google finds your answer. When you are shopping online, do you search for certain criteria about the products under consideration? Bingo, Google. If you have any interest in the range Google has over your online activity, simply check ‘My Activity’ and see for yourself.
Google and MeWe
Google and Facebook are bedfellows. Both have been exposed as platforms that intrude, manipulate, and share the details of our lives. That is the reason many of us have switched to or added MeWe as a social platform. Imagine my surprise when I found that MeWe was connected to Google via my contacts. While I do not pretend to be a techie, I felt uncomfortable when I saw the connection. Apparently, according to the notice, when I chose to disconnect the two, my MeWe account would no longer properly function. Check out ‘Permissions’ on your Google account to see the many apps that are able to access much more about you than you would believe.
It is eerie to sit at my computer, doing a bit of reading, when a photo suddenly appears. There, on my side bar, is the exact dress I was just viewing online only a few moments ago. My ties with Google search have been cut for a while now. My current search engine offers search privacy, so how did my shopping become public?
The answer is as intricate as the internet itself. With all of our longing for online privacy, we are still not alone. Shopping at Amazon, Sam’s Club, or any other marketing page means that our information has been captured and used. While I do not know all of the technical details, I understand the result.
A few years ago I was both amazed and enlightened when my daughter brought a particular aspect of Google Earth to my attention. Out of curiosity, she had made a search to zero in on her place of employment. Imagine our surprise when we viewed the Google Earth still shot and saw an image of her, walking back to work from a fast food restaurant. While she had nothing to hide and we saw no sinister motive, it was nevertheless unsettling to know that a random photo from a satellite out in space had captured her image.
Our homes are also under constant surveillance. Have you ever wondered how the department of Planning and Zoning knows about your new shed? Or maybe the county assesses a higher tax rate because they know about your new landscaping and decks. Once again, you can thank Google Earth. With no discretion at all, anyone can view homes, businesses, or farms at will. Just enter the address and a 3-D view can lead you right up to someone’s front door.
Junk Mail and Spam
Have you ever wondered how ‘they’ know that you love gardening or photography? Do you often receive junk mail or spam emails with an uncanny sense of your interests? Again, the things we consider private are not so private. Mailing lists are bought and sold like the commodity they are. All of the ways that we interact in this world are combined and used to profile us to the minute detail.
Recently, I became interested in the pain relieving aspect of a natural remedy. Someone who has had positive results sent a text to my phone with a site selling it. Much to my dismay, several spam emails for this same supplement appeared on my phone only one day later – even though I had not clicked on the link. I have read that keywords in our texts and emails are indiscriminately harvested. Now I tend to believe that.
Technology and Privacy
One need only peruse technology leaning news articles to realize that privacy is a thing of the past. Facial recognition is not exclusive to Facebook and law enforcement. Location services on our smart phones are inadvertently turned on to facilitate the use of dozens of our most useful apps. Our credit card chips contain more information about us than we will ever know – because we are not privy to knowing what is there. Even our grocery discount cards are spying as they deliver better prices, digital coupons, and gas pump savings.
Privacy – Is It Even Possible?
While I will never be a Facebook apologist, I do prefer to spread the blame. It seems that we are caught up in a web of information collection and sharing. That we are unwilling pawns in this endeavor is now painfully clear. So what are we to do?
Unfortunately, one would have to live on a deserted island or become a part of the witness protection program to maintain privacy in this day and age. The only recourse left to us is the use of caution. Knowledge is power, so it is imperative that we become aware. If closing your Facebook account is in your future, know that simply closing your account will not remove your information. Like toothpaste squeezed out of the tube, it cannot be put back into its private container. You can, however, download your content to preserve it for yourself.
The best remaining action is to proceed with caution. Panic will not help alleviate the situation. Be aware and learn to save some interactions for person to person contact. After all, the old-fashioned ways of communication might be the best alternative to living such a public life.
Of even more importance is to continue to live in the Light. God has always known the most secret aspects of the lives of His creatures. Perhaps our lost privacy will reaffirm the need for an openness and honesty left by the wayside for much too long.
“And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil.” John 3:19