The Open Source Lifestyle -- Privacy versus Respect

If you click this link, you can see my house. That vehicle in the driveway is my 1991 Ford Ranger. I give you that link without hesitation, because with the current state of technology, it's a simple point and click to get my address, and a copy/paste after that to get a map. I'm not so naive that I consider an unlisted phone number viable protection from the prying eyes of the world. Does that mean privacy is dead? Well, I'd argue yes and no.

Before the days of Internet searches and Google maps, having an unlisted number really did largely protect you from snoops. Sure, if a person was persistent enough (read: creepy), they could follow you home from work, and learn where you lived. The Internet allows everyone to be slightly creepy, however, and no one is the wiser. Add Flickr, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Pownce, YouTube, etc -- and it's very difficult to remain anonymous anymore. It's almost like our lives themselves have become Open Source.

Oddly enough, I don't think that's such a bad thing. Isn't it much safer if we assume people know things about us, rather than get surprised by ignorance? Sure, that's either very cynical, or very paranoid -- but I'd rather err on the side of precaution any day. And the flip side is that as people, as parents, as mentors, and as leaders, we need to teach about respect on the Internet. Privacy based on respect is much more likely to be truly private.

I know many will disagree with me, and claim the Internet enables creeps to be creepier than ever. And you're right. My point is that we can either embrace the reality we live in, or try to hide from it. I'm pretty sure we already know which will be more effective.

As with all things, your mileage might vary. I'm not suggesting everyone publish their Social Security number on their blog, or to publish your children's softball schedule on Twitter, but please realize that if someone wants those things -- they can most likely get them.

That said, if anyone wants to find me this weekend, I'll be at the Penguicon in Troy, MI from April 18-20. I'll be driving that '91 Ford Ranger. Creeps aren't allowed, but everyone else can feel free to look me up. :o)

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.


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this is how we lose our rights

freddy22's picture

Embrace reality? What you're really saying is "lay back and enjoy it." I'm continually astonished by the lack of outrage over abuses like this, though perhaps people are numbed by the sheer volume of outrages perpetrated on them. Privacy based on respect? What are you smoking? Google takes a big steaming dump on our privacy, and you're nattering about "respect". There is a huge difference between exposing your innermost idiocies on MySpace, and Google posting photos of your home without permission on the dommed Internet for anyone to see. Opt-out is a corrupt, evil, disrespectful policy. Do no evil? Google does plenty of evil. Thanks for not standing up for us little guys.

It's a sign of people living

Anonymous's picture

It's a sign of people living in relative comfort for too long. Coming from a relatively oppressive country, I disagree that privacy should be based on only respect. The state will not show such goodwill.

Since you gave it all up, Shawn...

Carlie Fairchild's picture

Here's the Linux Journal office on a map too. Ours comes with directions to Frito Pie.

Carlie Fairchild is the publisher of Linux Journal.