What Kind of Privacy Do We Really Want?

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Privacy on social media is a delicate balancing act wherein we all try to keep separate the things we want to tell the world, from the things we never want anyone to know. With millions of status updates per day some feel compelled to tell all, laying every part of us bare. Others wish they could withdraw completely.

In Japan, there’s a movement called “Himitsu Hantai” — or “Against Secrets” — in which supporters protest government secrets, like those leaked by Edward Snowden.

The idea that governments should be transparent may be ideal for many, but in practice we seem to have it backwards. Instead, we give up location data voluntarily by checking in at locations and events and we publically post dozens of pictures of our faces to Instagram. In the case of Japan’s leading social network, Line, the voluntary aspect is being called into question.

Line has 300 million users, and a lot of the school aged users are under massive peer pressure to be “always on.” If they’re not available at all times Japanese youth can face insults, threats and ostracism. If they’re not willing to post intimate details of their life — and even nude pictures — the pressure can be even worse.

One student chose to get off Line for a summer while travelling with his family. Upon his return to school he found funeral flowers on his desk. “We thought you were dead,” his classmates said. Social media is so embedded into many of our lives, but are we taking it all too seriously?

Perhaps we should make sure we’re not against the wrong secrets. Can we really call for governments to collect less of our data when we surrender the same information to tech companies every day?

Maybe we’re too terrified of being out of the loop to step away. Our lives have become digitized, and its high time we decided what that means, for users, services and governments.

 Image credit:  katerha

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