I'm watching you, Wazowski. Always watching.
I get it in the neck sometimes for being so active on social media. Like I don't have any concept of privacy, or I'm asking to be accosted by weirdos. If someone invades my personal life, that's my problem for being so open, right?
It's a tricky one.
On the one hand, we live in a time when almost all the information you could ever wish for is publicly accessible. We can educate ourselves on all sorts of things we never learned at school. We can get live news from across the globe. I can stay in touch with relatives on the other side of the world without having to wait weeks for letters or even emails; I can see their faces at the touch of a button. I can meet my new nephew via Facebook messenger video chat!
Online, I can discover and join communities of people with similar interests to me without being in the same room or country. I can rediscover friendships I thought were lost. I can expand myself, in all sorts of good ways.
On the other hand, the more we share, the more vulnerable we are to those who would exploit that information. Thanks to a steady stream of hacking scandals in the media, the dangers of an advanced tech culture are much more obvious now than they were ten years ago. We've lost much of the innocent joy of enjoying technology because the freedom we think it has given us actually comes with a whole new set of necessary restrictions and precautions.
What I find strange is the dichotomy of approach between personal security and commercial use of data. Our banks, employers, government and other bodies exhort us to exercise caution, improve security, protect our private information and identity from attack. But technology in advertising has carte blanche to follow our every move online, record our shopping and social media habits and use it to sell to us.
Suddenly it feels like you need a diploma in cyber security to figure out what permissions you've given away without even realising. Yeah it might be on us to make informed decisions around browser cookies and what terms and conditions we sign up to, but they sure don't like to make it easy to do so, do they? 'Buyer beware' needs updating to 'browser beware'!
And as far as granting surveillance access goes, the adage 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' doesn't wash with me, if I'm honest. We can't assume that every entity engaged in surveillance is doing so for the greater good. We can't trust that everyone will follow the same ethical code when it comes to gathering and handling our information. And we definitely can't trust that no one will ever try to use any of it against us.
So where does that leave us? I honestly wish I knew! I'm still figuring out what I feel safe sharing or not sharing. It's always been my hope that something as world-changing as the internet would bring out the best in humanity in terms of our capacity to share, connect and empathise. Clearly though, it can bring out the worst as well. In the middle of all this, we have to find our way as best as we can.