‘Big Brother’, Privacy, and Drawing the Line

This post stems from an article I read today via my local NBC station’s Facebook Page. The headline alone should spark interest –

“Government Agencies, Colleges Demand Applicants’ Facebook Passwords”

Yes, you read that right and I assume your reaction is the same as mine was… say what??!

First off, I have long since had the attitude (and quite frankly, the knowledge) that anything I put online…anything WE put online… is NOT private no matter how “private” we make it. We live in an age where a terrorist or a child molester or a criminal or a…could be living right next door. It’s disgusting to even have to think that much less type it, but it’s a reality. And I get that the government has to monitor online activity to ensure our safety. Right or wrong, personally, I don’t want to see another 9/11 in my lifetime and I pray every single day that I don’t. As such, again, I have long since understood that the reality is it’s happening under our noses. George Orwell wrote something about a “Big Brother” watching us back in 1948; only then he was referring to 1984. Though his notion was fictional, it wasn’t all that far-fetched, was it?

“I don’t care if you’re writing an article for a print magazine, a chapter in a book, or a post on your Facebook Page. The bottom line is we are free to write what we want when we want and if we chose to do so on an online platform…”

HOWEVER, we do not live in a totalitarian society. We live in a democracy governed by elected officials who must follow that which our forefathers left us – THE Constitution of the United States – and we citizens must abide by the laws of that very same Constitution. Last time I checked the First Amendment indicates that all Americans have a right to free speech. Now, unless I’m wrong, I do believe that’s still the same today as it was in 1787 when the document was created. As such, I don’t care if you’re writing an article for a print magazine, a chapter in a book, or a post on your Facebook Page. The bottom line is we are free to write what we want when we want and if we chose to do so on an online platform in private based on settings we are allowed to have, no one has the right to ask for the login information and/or the passwords to gain access to what we say in order to hire us or allow us to attend an educational institution OR play a sport for that same educational institution. The mere fact that there are employers and administrators out there asking for that very information for the purpose of hiring or accepting candidates, is ethically and lawfully wrong (and the fact that there are people wiling to abide by such a request is also disturbing, but that’s for another post).

And boy when I read that article, that made my blood boil for that reason as well as for another equally as important one.

"Greetings From Raleigh" April 2011 exhibit at Design Box Raleigh

(The picture above represents freedom of expression.)

You know what this stems from – ignorance. Ignorance on the part of employers, the government, educational institutions who are creating unrealistic policies based on what? Do these policy-makers even participate in online platforms themselves? Who do they hire to create such policies? Most importantly, how can they expect prospective employees, students, athletes to want to work for or participate in all that they have to offer when immediately those same prospects feel as if they can’t be trusted? Don’t they (the creators and executors of such policies) realize they’ve immediately lost the respect of their prospects just be asking the fact?

Again, my blood boils.

“In other words, understand the tools AND your audiences.”

Here’s the thing folks – EDUCATE YOURSELVES (and yes, I’m SCREAMING!). Don’t get me wrong. I get that you have to protect yourselves too, that companies, institutions, government agencies need to have policies in place. Otherwise, how does anyone stay accountable for their actions? But, for goodness sake, learn the medium. Learn how to Tweet, why people Tweet, how to post to Facebook, why people post to Facebook, why they follow brands on social networks. In other words, understand the tools AND your audiences. That way you can create policies that make sense AND that don’t attempt to take away an individual’s Constitutional rights.

The BIG issues here are First Amendment rights and knowledge and understanding of the medium. There is a way to connect the two. If we don’t and instead consistently make allowances for ignorance, then we can expect our society to deteriorate. Whether business or government or school, can’t someone who is paid to make decisions actually make the correct ones?

Or am I asking too much?

“Don’t be stupid online. Period.”

And let me just clarify one thing too. Here’s another thought – if we would all just stop and think before we post online, there would never be an issue of a different kind of ignorance…or what I like to call…stupidity. Don’t be stupid online. Period. The old adage goes, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say it at all.” Perhaps if we just focus on providing value, sharing our expertise, being knowledgeable and uplifting, there wouldn’t be any stupidity online.

Wait a sec…I think I’m asking too much again.

And for the record, nothing I say online am I EVER embarrassed about. Nothing. I practice the the philosophy I mentioned above. I try every single day to be uplifting and positive, to share my knowledge because the way I see it, if I can be of inspiration to someone else, I have done my job for the day. So for me personally, I accept that Big Brother is watching. It’s when the line is drawn that I don’t accept. The line has been drawn in the cases mentioned in that article. That’s why my blood boils.

I’m off my soapbox now. Let’s hope my blood pressure goes down too. 🙂

Comment policy – I do wish to hear what you have to say about this issue. However, if I feel your comment is derogatory in any way and does not offer a solution to the issues at hand, then I will not approve it. We have the power to be positively inspirational. Inspire with your comments because let’s face it, nobody likes a “Debby Downer”. Oh and if you get too political, I’m definitely not approving your comment. I loathe politics and since this is my blog, I have the right not to accept a political rant. Thank you.

2 Responses to “‘Big Brother’, Privacy, and Drawing the Line”
  1. well said, Lisa. well said.

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