febrero 13, 2013


Imagine an epic battle between Batman and Ironman… It won’t happen because one is a superhero from DC Comics and the second one belongs to the Marvel Universe. In the world of comic rights, to be one or the other is worse than becoming villainous archenemies. Fortunately, we are not looking for creating the ultimate crossover blockbuster, only to use their personalities as analogies to illustrate the evolution of privacy. 

Batman vs Ironman 

There are many similarities between both superheros: both are hugely successful business men; both fight evil doers; both wear impressive suits financed by their, no less impressive, fortunes… 

However, there is a crucial difference between them: one wears a mask to keep his identity secret, the other not only does not care about his identity being known, he is a showoff actively seeking for fame and recognition. 

In the world of Social Media, Batman’s privacy would not have a chance. Keeping his identity secret would consume all his financial resources to the point of forcing Wayne’s Industries to Chapter 11. And even then, in our smartphone plagued world, all his efforts would have been futile. 

Tony Stark is much better prepared than Bruce Wayne to live in the Social Media Driven society we live. He understands the perils of revealing his identity, but prefers the ego bust of showing off. 

We live in a transparent world. Open societies where citizens overexpose themselves. The concept of privacy is blurring away dissolved into the so called cloud and certainly won’t mean the same to the current generation of kids, born and raised in the middle of a Social Media revolution. 

I’m old enough to remember the time when we had a certain illusion of control over our privacy. Governments, Security Agencies, Hackers, Paparazzi, Marketing experts and all the usual suspects craving for our private data had to ask, and do it politely, for any personal info you may decide to give them. Today, with everyone sharing the tiniest of their life’s details, we seem to be living inside those suspects’ wettest dreams. Not only are we willing to give valuable info, we‘re releasing it for free! Hey! We live in a world where our personal information is public by default. Privacy is the very hidden, and difficult to choose, opt-in alternative

Prerogative of Kings 

In 1995, pictures of King Juan Carlos of Spain sunbathing naked on the deck of a yacht were published by an Italian magazine. They were taken by paparazzi, using very potent zoom lenses, from a nearby shore. King Juan Carlos was furious and asked for the foreign affair’s minister to give him an explanation on why those pictures were made public. The Minister’s very respectful answer to the king was: “with all due respect, your majesty, the only way to avoid pictures like those being published, is not to sunbathe naked…” 

Is there value in privacy? For a public figure like the King, there certainly is. For the IRS, the Government and other public agencies? More than you probably want them to. For marketing specialists? You bet your socks there is. 

Dude what happened to our privacy? 

So, the following question comes to mind: If privacy is a valuable asset, how come our society seems to treat it like a disposable commodity? 

The answer is simple: because we trade it off for other valuable things. 

We trade our private info in exchange for “free” facebook and twitter accounts, “free” Youtube entertainment, “free” google searches, even “free” product recommendations. 

For some of us, this trade is ill-balanced because we value our privacy more than what we value the exchanged goods and services. It has even reached a point where it takes time and effort on our part to fight giving up our privacy. Our world is so transparent that keeping our privacy clean of meddling  requires the skills of a SEO expert. There even are companies offering courses and seminars to teach you how to acquire those skills. 

Whether we like it or not, we leave a digital track whenever we surf online. We even leave ways to track our physical whereabouts with our cell phones on and by our side 24/7. People tag us on pictures; write and gossip about us and not always with the best of intentions in mind. Can we cope with this? The answer is no. To keep things private require such effort nowadays that, as in the case of Bruce Wayne, I dare to say we are better off being widely transparent. 

Don’t misinterpret me, by being transparent I don’t mean reckless, careless or stupid. We have to secure critical info: password protect access to our social and financial accounts, make those passwords long and difficult to guess, change them frequently and practice all the hygienic advises recommended by security experts. I assume you are intelligent enough to know that is not the private info I recommend to be transparent about. 

What I mean is go ahead and share whatever you want to share assuming everything is being watched, and potentially judged. If you don’t want pictures of your naked self sunbathing to be public, don’t sunbathe naked. 

These are the times of personal branding. Our reputation is our most valuable asset. Misunderstanding happens. There will be trolls and character assassins ready to kill our reputation with lies and prejudice. My bet is that we’ll be better prepared to deal with the situations they’ll certainly bring if we've been transparent about our lives. 

Privacy is an endangered species and is being hunted high and low. The “good” old days where the occasional stalker, the freaky perv next door, was the only threat disturbing our privacy, are long gone. We live in a jungle plenty of hunters ambushed to predate on your privacy. I have a word for them: become scavengers, because when Social CSI investigators examine the corpse of our privacy, evidence will show it was death by suicide.

So, what are your thoughts about this? Are we killing our privacy? Do we surrender it as collateral in exchange for freebies or is it being stolen from us without our consent?

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