The Illusion of Privacy

A couple of weeks back, the star wide receiver for USC made some inflammatory statements on Twitter towards his coach.  He also said he was quitting the team. After he made these comments, he took the tweets down and made his profile private.  But the damage was already done.  He’s now no longer with the team and his potential future in the NFL.  That same week, iCloud had a security flaw where some famous people’s nude photos were leaked.  Facebook continues to catch flack for issues with privacy.  It seems that there are regular stories popping up with regard to privacy online.  It’s even a conversation with our cell phone carriers regarding our conversations, address books, etc.  This week as I was thinking about this as my 16-year old daughter was sharing several stories of high school students misuse of Twitter and how they can’t take things back.  There is no delete button.  I was mentioning this to my wife last night as we were agreeing that it’s much harder to be a student today than when we were in school.  When we did stupid stuff, there wasn’t anybody there immediately posting it to YouTube and tweeting it.  Once our blunders were over, they were over.  Not today.  But our students still have the minds that once it’s over, it’s over.  That the things they write or share online can stay private, or they’ll eventually go away.  They won’t.  And it got me to thinking:

There is no such thing as privacy online.  Period. 100% security is an illusion.

Think of it this way: I own a house. I have locks on my house. I even have a security system installed. But those things aren’t guarantees that my home won’t be broken into. Same illustration for my car. Just because I have locks and alarms doesn’t mean I have 100% certain security. Why should we believe we could have it online?

The reality is that we choose to have cell phones which companies may or may not track our usage.  If we don’t like it, we can go back to land lines.  It’s just the way it is.  Anything we post online is forever.  There is no erase button.  I can still go to archive.org and see the first website I created for my church plant.  Tweets, comments, text messages etc are never things we can take back or erase.  It’s part of our electronic footprint.  It never goes away.

Learn more about your digital footprint. If you have kids online, this is a great resource. Teaching Students about Digital Footprint

Safety in Transparency

This brought up a different conversation I was having with my high school junior Grace regarding transparency and accountability.  Of course, teens want to have some secrecy online.  But reality is there is no such animal.  I shared with her that I have people who see my Internet usage and ask me questions about my heart and where my eyes go when I’m online.  I have people in my life that ask me questions about the things I write, text, or say so that I’m moving towards the fruit of the spirit in these areas.  Not perfect – transparent. As believers, we also know that there is no secret.  God sees all our stuff.  Even writing this post in my basement, I’m not writing alone.  He’s not big brother.  But as someone who sees all, knows all, and loves all.  He is with us.  He’s fond of us.  He loves us – warts and all.

Brandon Hatmaker posted something on Twitter this week that injects into the conversation.  He wrote, “The opposite of poor is not rich… it’s community.”  I believe one of the most powerful things we have here on planet Earth is Biblical Community.  People who are messed up and living in grace together.  My greatest gift to my community is my brokenness, vulnerability and honesty.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I do believe that there are bad people who are stealing our stuff online and trying to misuse it.  Identity theft.  Stealing money.  Stealing pictures.  Stealing our personal information.  And we should be doing our best to combat this.  I am deeply concerned about are security revolving around banking and personal information connected to social security numbers, financials, etc.  Those I can’t really control.  I have to just trust that people are working on my behalf to keep my stuff safe.  What I can do is be smart about passwords, use common sense, and hope for the best.

I love 1Password for helping me create complex passwords for my web services as well as remembering all of the crazy letter and number combinations. Learn more: One Password

Wrap Up

There is a continual focus on use/misuse of Twitter and outrage of people’s photos being leaked.  But the more I read and understand, the more the reality is that there won’t be a magic pill for any of this stuff regarding privacy.  The world has moved online and there are bad people there.  We shouldn’t put our heads in the sand and pretend they aren’t there.  But we shouldn’t be surprised when they show up to the party and try to mess it up.  Am I on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and a dozen other social networks?  Yep.  Are all of my images from the past ten years stored in iCloud and automatically backed up from my iPhone?  You betchya.  Have I been writing and posting since 1997?  Guilty.  It’s all there and it won’t go away.  I’ve accepted that to be a part of this type of community, I’m going to have to make some sacrifices – one of which is going to be my privacy.  But maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.  Sounds a bit Biblical to me as I think about it from the perspective of transparency. Live open. Trust others. Hope for the best. Rest in the truth that the Father is our ultimate security. That, not McAfee or ADT, help me sleep at night. Everything I have is a gift from the Father. He’ll take good care of it and of me. You too.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.