By Ara C. Trembly
Privacy is certainly an issue thats grabbing a lot of headlines these days, yet few of us, I think, realize how ridiculous a concept this is in the age of the Internet.
Its not that anyone is actually trying to convince us that mail on the Internet is totally secure. Rather, it seems we are blissfully unaware of how easy it is for anyone with some gumption–or a complete lack of morals–to see our most intimate–or inanee-correspondence.
Yes, Im talking about e-mail and instant messaging and chat room chatter and just about anything else you type or speak into your computer when youre online.
In the early days of the World Wide Web, people used to talk about how the Web might do away with commercial publishing altogether, because individuals could “publish” their thoughts via the Internet. While Im happy to say that commercial publishing is alive and well, those people had a point. Anything you send out onto the information highway can be spotted by other drivers or even bystanders, who may also go by the name of “hacker”–or “systems administrator.”
Do you really want your companys IT department to read that e-mail you wrote to your husband about the boss being a “butthead?” Are you really OK with having some stranger (in fact, many strangers) in a chat room know about your “boom-boom night in Vegas?” More importantly, do you really want to expose your company or agencys precious information to the possible scrutiny of competitors, data thieves and hackers?
If you trust that your electronic communications are private, you might just as well walk down the streets of your hometown naked. In fact, thats a good analogy for what happens when we send messages out from home or corporate computer systems.
I know this seems like one of those bad dreams, but picture yourself standing on the main drag of your home city and suddenly shedding your clothing (Ill give you a break and well also say its sunny and 80 degrees outside.). As you cavort sans-vestments down the public thoroughfare, youll certainly draw some attention.
Your banker, for example, could get an entirely new view of your “assets.” The UPS person may be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised by your “package.” The butcher could begin ruminating about “flank” steaks or “rump” roast.