Privacy: The view from 1987 and Antiquity - or why I'm deleting Google,Facebook and Twitter

1 “A History of Private Life”

There is, I think, an urgent need to protect the essence of individuality from headlong technological progress. For unless we are careful, individual men and women may soon be reduced to little more than numbers in immense and terrifying data bank.

Georges Duby, Forward to A History of Private Life, 1987

I’m in the process of deleting Facebook, Twitter and Google from my life. I think Duby et al. were on to something a little ahead of their time.

Figure 1: A History of Private Life

Figure 1: A History of Private Life

Post 30 of #100DaysToOffload

2 What’s bothering me

It takes a lot of work to change your email provider of 15 years. You loose contacts when you ditch Facebook (that guy I’ve not seen since 3rd grade..). Twitter is, well, a thing. Just ask the President (’nuf said ?) So why go the trouble? What is it about privacy that gets me and so many people spun up to the point that we will spend time fighting what is almost certainly a loosing battle against Big Brother, Big Internet and Big Advertising?

There are many reasons, but I think they all center around what it means to be human:

Something about using the current set of “free” Big Internet offerings where, “If you’re not paying for it you ARE the product” violates the space we so desperately need.

3 Back to the big thinkers

Enough of my ramblings. Back to the deep thinkers who put together the encyclopedic A History of Private Life in 1987 without (gasp) Google or anything better than a IBM-PC running DOS…

…at all times and in all places a clear commonsensical distinction has been made the public — that which is open to the community and subject to the authority of its magistrates — and the private. In other words, a clearly defined realm is set aside for that part of existence for which every language has a word equivalent to “private”, a zone of immunity to which we may fall back or retreat, a place where we may set aside arms and armor needed in the public place, relax, take our ease, and lie about unshielded…this is the place where the family thrives, the realm of domesticity; it is also the realm of secrecy. The private realm contains our most precious possessions, which belong only to ourselves, which concern nobody else, and which may not be divulged…

Georges Duby, Forward to A History of Private Life, 1987

Is he right? Do you have the space you need to “protect the essence of individuality from headlong technological progress”?