Time-traveling forward to look back at online privacy in 2013
Sometimes, people really only care about their privacy when it has been violated. It's easier to sit in denial ("I won't get hit"), or to pretend that you don't have any private information worth leaking, than it is to take action. But, sitting in denial is expensive.
What if hackers were to target members of the U.S. Congress and share their private information with the world? Would Congress finally feel the cold sweat of panic that the rest of us feel when our digital identities are systematically and stealthily collected and sold by corporations?
Sometimes, a little dry humor is an effective way of relating the seriousness of an issue that many people fail to recognize. Dan Tynan of ITworld took this approach in a recent article about technology and online privacy.
Starting off with a clever "Doctor Who" reference, Tynan wrote his article as if it were put together at the tail end of 2013, a year we non-time-travelers have yet to experience. Among the many predictions – or reflections, based on your view of the space-time continuum – was the infiltration of the United States Congress by the hacktivist group Anonymous.
According to Tynan's "past" and our "future," the personal data of our elected officials was/will be exposed in an attempt to show just how much information is collected about average Americans every day and how little we do to stop it. The browser histories and geolocation data led/leads to more than a few political scandals and resignations.
As a result, Congress approves the "Comprehensive Restore America's Privacy" act, also known as the CRAP Act. Further legislation finally prohibits the advertising industry from data-mining the right to privacy right out of our lives, causing an industry-wide revenue decline of a whopping 0.03 percent.
Tynan took a humorous approach to a serious issue – online privacy protection – but successfully highlights just how serious it really is. We voluntarily give away droves of personal information about our lives on a daily basis, while a plethora of additional data is collected without our knowledge or permission.
The advertising industry and major corporations don't need all of that information to turn a profit, but they'll take every last bit of it unless consumers start taking the topic seriously. Because, while reading Tynan's article may provide a laugh or two now, it will be anything but humorous if these events actually come to pass.
John Sileo is an online privacy expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.