Thursday, May 05, 2005

Do people have a sense of their own privacy any more?

You meet some great people through blogging. Gerry Riskin, who has a new blog called Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, sent me a link to this article in the Opinion Journal.

I find people's attitudes about privacy to be very interesting. There really is a full spectrum and many people feel compelled to share just a little too much with total strangers.

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan:

"I was at a wedding, standing just off the dance floor, when a pleasant young man in his 20s approached, introduced himself and asked where I'd had my hair done. I shook his offered hand and began to answer, but before I could he said, 'I'm gay, by the way.' I nodded as if this were my business, but thought: I wonder why a total stranger thinks I want to know what he wishes to do with his genitals? What an odd way to say hello.

We live in a time in which people routinely violate their own privacy.

I don't think the young man lacked a sense of privacy. I suspect if I'd said, 'Tell me your annual salary,' he would have bridled. That's personal...."

I tend to agree with the commentator. It's not really that there is no sense of privacy any more, it is just that the line between public and private has been shifting. And people will happily share information with a stranger that the wouldn't give to a marketing company (unless they got some loyalty points for it!). Privacy these days -- for many -- is about the threat of being profiled by big business and having your identity stolen. The risks of sharing personal information have significantly changed in the last little while, and a stranger at a wedding isn't the threat.

Just last week, I was having a conversation with my pharmacist at the counter. The other people in line kept a respectful distance. Within a minute, some guy just walked up and stood right next to me. He was clearly able to hear everything I was discussing with my pharmacist. It was unnerving. "This guy has no sense of privacy," I thought. As soon as there was a pause in the conversation, the guy broke in and asked the pharmacist where he'd be able to find a particular brand of suppositories. Yup. No sense of privacy at all.

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