Imagine yourself at an art gallery. There are people gathered around a piece of art. You walk over to take a look as well, but in a moment you realize that what you are looking at, is not exactly art.
What you are looking at, is a picture of you and your partner or companion within your most private and intimate moments- something that you never imagined anyone could get their hands on. A photograph or video you had never intended to be seen by anyone, is now exposed and put up and made public.
The Internet could change your whole life overnight
That's just the world that we live in today. Our most sensitive personal information and most guarded photos and videos could get exposed without our knowledge, and find itself as headlines overnight.
For example, in recent times, several high profile cases of private photos or intimate images belonging to innocent individuals have been leaked or shared online without their owners’ consent in recent times in a sexually exploitative manner. And with each time that this happens, the internet has shown no signs of sympathy.
Whether you are a celebrity and a victim of 'The Fappening' or at the unfortunate end of 'Revenge Porn', private photographs will be consumed, shared, and re-posted by members of the internet unrelentlessly, and with little or no care for the deep implications it will have on each victim's lives.
What exactly is at stake?
Perhaps you think you may never be at the center of a viral post online or a victim or information or photo leak. "I am a pretty private person", you say.
Unfortunately, you make be at risk of many other issues, and there are a lot more at stake for you as an individual than you can ever imagine in the face of the future of privacy.
Phone number theft could meant that you lose your whole digital identity, along with access to bank accounts, and your other important assets.
Using an unprotected hotel Wi-fi could result in usernames, passwords and other personal information to be stolen.
Ad and spam technologies are also targeting innocent users like you each day. Advertisers easily extract your personal information and find out, say your sexual orientation or even the color of bag that you are looking to buy, along with personally identifiable information like your first and last names.
Job recruiters also infringe on your personal privacy while being at their jobs. It is also too easy to look up your real name to find your job history, while discovering a whole lot of other personal details about what you and what you did at the side.
Future of privacy- bright or bleak?
While the internet continues to grow in its menacing size in volume of memes, fake news, click-baits, and photograph leaks, its contributors towards exploitation of personal information and private photos and videos will continue to grow in its numbers. Dark-web rings, hackers, and doxx-ers will constantly find new and smarter ways to phish and acquire private content.
Technology companies do not seem to be on your side with personal privacy too. Facebook has still not given up how it uses and have used user's data over following the outrage of the Cambridge Analytica scandal (where a political consulting company connected to Donald Trump's campaign used data from over 87 million Facebook profiles to influence and manipulate voting and election results).
Should you trust the technology companies to take care of your personal privacy, or should this require your personal attention and care? Where is your personal privacy and where does it stand in the future?
Does it require a counter-reactive or proactive approach?
The general idea is simple- The more you share online, the more of your personal privacy you are giving up.
Plus, it should now be obvious to you that infringement of personal privacy can lead to irreversible damage.
Despite this knowledge, it is in human-nature that we do not respond well towards non obvious threats on personal privacy and often fall-back on more laid-back and passive stance.
A good example would be global warming which may now be too late to react to.
As Bill Joy (then Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems) puts it in a now famous blog post: “The experiences of the atomic scientists clearly show the need to take personal responsibility, the danger that things will move too fast, and the way in which a process can take on a life of its own. We can, as they did, create insurmountable problems in almost no time flat. We must do more thinking up front if we are not to be similarly surprised and shocked by the consequences of our inventions."
How can I then protect my personal privacy in today's Internet?
Therefore what may be necessary is a new approach in personal privacy care and prevention.
The first step may be in personal privacy education.
Second step is make use of companion tools that accompany you in your web activity and make sure you are in check.
There are a wide variety of personal privacy tools that do this, the most powerful one being a VPN. A VPN basically encrypts your entire web browsing information so that nothing can be seen by anyone, not even by hackers and even your ISPs.
Other tools such as password managers, and phone number changers can also help you to protect your personal privacy.
Such tools are usually non-intrusive, requires a bit of effort to operate, but you will absolutely thank later.
You, and the future of your own personal privacy
Privacy protection has no immediate return on time investment but its dangers become glaringly apparent when other people in society become victim of privacy issues.
What is your stance towards your own personal privacy? So should you continue to take a passive approach to your personal privacy? Thats something for you to really think about.