Roman Malanke

Privacy in the Transparent World

The evolution of the Internet and social networking technologies over the last decade is very interesting to observe. Especially amusing is to watch the behavior of the vast majority of users who are immersed in the flow and jump immediately on any new feature, without really understanding how it works and what implications it might have. Social networking sites become more aggressive in encouraging their users to create links between different services and thoughtlessly share everything left and right. Oftentimes less technologically savvy people might not even realize that the stuff on their smartphone or tablet is being made public by some cutting-edge social networking app. All this makes today’s world much more transparent than it used to be. Along with increased transparency naturally come concerns about privacy. To address them, the same social networking sites offer us an opportunity to get bogged down in their complicated security policies and privacy settings. Another reliable way to achieve the peace of mind is not to use social networks at all.

I don’t like complicating my life, and at the same time I don’t like to miss out on the latest technological developments, so I practice a third alternative approach, which is based on three very simple premises.

First, I never create connections online with the people whom I don’t know personally. The whole idea of social networks was to facilitate interactions with people you know. Then somehow it turned into a number game, so in order to increase the number of “friends”, people started to connect with someone they barely knew and eventually with anyone. I see such connections as pure waste: waste of time, waste of attention, and waste of bandwidth.

Second, I only do online what would make sense to do in the real world. For example, if I heard a stupid joke, I wouldn’t go around retelling it to all my acquaintances, so I never do that online. On the other hand, if I wanted to see if any of my friends has a book I needed, I would reach out to them. So I can use a social networking site to facilitate that.

Third, I maintain a single persona and only put online something that I wouldn’t be afraid to be made absolutely public. An easy test you can apply to any post or comment is: would I still write it if my mom, my wife, and my boss could read it?

One wise man once said something to the effect: “I don’t worry about privacy. For me it’s much easier to make sure I don’t do or say anything that needs to be kept secret, rather than trying to keep secrecy.” It’s important to remember that the Internet and social networks are merely tools, and as with all tools, it’s our behavior that determines whether me make stupid or smart use of them.