The Death of Privacy: Life in a Post-Private World

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Imagine if privacy was dead. You know, like absolutely nothing was private. As I see it, we don’t really have to imagine it.  Here is newsworthy support of this premise from the past few weeks:

Ray Rice Abuse | Facebook Messenger Tracking | The Snowden WikiLeaks | Jennifer Lawrence Photos

To further prove the point, each of these stories are archived for our viewing for…well, presumably forever! Privacy is dead. We just don’t live and act like it yet.

As a futurist, I work to identify trends which could significantly change our lives and our organizations. About four years ago I first saw the term “Death of Privacy” on a  trend-map. The concept resonated deeply with me, not because I liked it, but because it seemed to be true. As time progresses, I see this trend continuing to grow in significance and impact.

As a reader, you may be asking, “So What!?” Here are five implications of the death of privacy in our personal and organizational lives.

1. The rise of going dark. Traditionally, going dark refers to unplugging from our electronic addictions. In the future going dark will be a means for us to engage in life without fear of being tracked. How will your workplace change if people believe that they are only free off-the-grid?

2. ‘Free’ will become increasingly costly. We live in a time of free apps and software. However, we are learning that ‘nothing-free-is-free’ as these programs monitor our habits and sell our data. As a result, watch for a movement of people being willing to pay (perhaps pay a premium), for products and services that provide assurances of privacy.

3. Privacy and secrecy will become synonyms. A Google search provides us with robust information about most people we want to know more about. In an open information society, those who become adept at keeping their lives private will be viewed with suspicion.

4. A new multiple personality disorder. Have you ever joked about that person on Facebook that has a life that is too good to be true? We can create on-line identities which are different than our real selves. As we adapt to a lack of privacy, we will spend increasing amounts of time curating our on-line personas. As a result, expect there to be confusion between Avatar-Joe and Real-Life-Joe.

5. Insert your insight here.  I invite you to add your own ideas in the comment box below!

At this point, it is tempting to rant about living a life without a modicum of privacy. However, I prefer to focus on things that I can change and I know I cannot change the diminishing nature of privacy. Instead, thoughtful readers will identify what they can do. For example, why don’t we require job applicants to submit their social profiles instead of sneaking around their backs and looking at their Facebook pages. We could proactively teach staff how to create healthy digital profiles which would benefit both themselves and their organization. Or we could educate our children about integrity so they understand that having separate private lives and public lives is a myth.

Privacy is dead. However, life after privacy is not.


Thanks to the following author for his thoughtful insights about the death of privacy which influenced this article.

Preston, A. (August 2, 2014). The death of privacy. The Guardian/The Observer. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/03/internet-death-privacy-google-facebook-alex-preston

3 comments

  1. Dustin

    Great insights! Companies like VyprVPN and others are increasingly focused on creating new ways to remain connected and private. This is evidenced by encrypted chat, for example. Do you think that this may spark a new search engine and social media race where anonymity and privacy are top priority to companies over the collection of consumer information? Can you imagine if people or companies went so far as to create multiple personas and profiles on Facebook or other sites, only one of which or some combination of which, would actually be true? Could the science of misinformation, evasion, and anonymity online outpace a “social change” shift toward greater integrity? Where do you see the issues blending? Who wins?

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  2. Corey

    The biggest shift will come with how to make money in a “Private” sector. Companies today such as Facebook and Twitter have over inflated share prices based on the value of the data the gather and the advertising they sell. How much would a company have to charge to truly go private and how long before people are willing to pay for it. I believe the “Go Dark – Off the Grid” will happen before individuals will pay for this. We see this in the Tiny house movement, minimalist lifestyle changes of individuals and that fact that youth today expect payment in “Life Experience” not just financial.

    As for the blending of profiles I believe it has shifted already – most people have a corporate (professional) and a social profile. More and more people are making the shift to differentiate between these worlds. The biggest question is when does the social profile go away and people realize the “One to One” human interaction is more important.

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  3. Sandra

    Let the decks fall where they may! I’ve given up. My concern is that our culture is becoming extreme. So, it is concerning that trolling people will ensue further discrimination based, when it comes to human resources, etc. We need to amend Title VII laws, perhaps.

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