Being online has become such a big part of our world that it’s almost unimaginable what life was like without it. For me, the most significant aspect of the role the Internet plays in my life has been the immediate access to information and knowledge. All you need is an Internet connection, and you can learn anything. Just as significant is that everyone is connected to just about everyone, virtually world-wide. It is empowering, powerful and infinite in potential.
While I may be jumping up and down in joy about being plugged into the world, many are not. There are privacy concerns and it’s no secret that some use the Internet for unscrupulous reasons. In this way, the Internet is no different than telephone or TV or any other form of mass communication. If a business or a government or a person decides to stick its nose into your life, it will find a way and you will be harmed, no matter what the vector. It happened before the Internet and it will happen always. That’s just the way it is.
What can you do to keep your private stuff private?
In the old days, a person would have to physically go into a bank, point a gun and demand all the money. If you had an account in that bank, you were hurt just as much as a hacker getting into your online personal account. The end result of you no longer having your money is the same. The same vulnerability exists in private phone calls or emails or texts or USPS mail. No method of communication or commerce has ever been 100 percent secure. It just takes us awhile to trust it enough to use despite the risks. Then, it becomes accepted and the risks forgotten.
If you think about it, we behave in certain ways when we want to keep our private stuff private. We speak in hushed tones when we don’t want to be overheard, whether it’s during a face-to-face conversation or a phone call. We lick the glue strip on the envelope before dropping it in the mailbox. We keep our debit cards, checkbook and driver’s license safe in our wallet. We give out our phone number, address or Social Security Number only when absolutely necessary.
It’s a given. We do what we need to do to safeguard our privacy. We’re still vulnerable; we’ve just forgotten the risks. What’re the odds?
Sure, we hear the horror stories about identity theft, hacking. heckling and bullying. Of course we hear about the crimes, the negatives. That’s what sells in the news. But, that’s nothing new. Instead of bank robbers, we hear about hackers. Instead of playground bullies, we hear about Facebook bullies. It’s all the same, including the odds. It doesn’t matter if it’s online or in the physical world, the risks are the same.
Even though you’re sitting at your computer within your own four walls, think of the Internet as “out there.” It’s part of your social life, not your personal life. Don’t share anything online that you wouldn’t share at school or at work. Keep in mind that what is said or shared online is as permanent as writing in ink, only more so since there’s nothing to burn.
It’s a matter of common sense, nothing more. Even though the Internet is relatively new, it’s just another method of communicating, of sharing, of learning, of speaking. We remain what we are: human.