What privacy do we deserve?

What privacy do we deserve?

Now that many companies and the social media know practically all there is to know about us we need to think about what – if any – privacy we want to retain. In the past our most intimate details were known mainly to our parents, spouses, professional advisers (lawyers, doctors, bankers) and our clergy. Today our private lives are available for anyone to see. Is this what we want? If not, how do we decide who should know what? And who will determine the acceptable behaviour of those who know our trivial and sometimes dark secrets?

A recent one-day conference brilliantly organised by the Royal Danish Embassy, the Trade Council, Invest in Denmark and the Quercus Group raised the subject in the intriguing context of Big Data in a Smart City. So much is known about each of us but how freely available should it be? There were questions as to whether data for the sake of data is pointless! Should we consider what we want to know before we broadcast the answers?

It is not that those we confide in deliberately gossip about us. We, too, are responsible for what is known about us. We offer our personal ramblings on the social media voluntarily, often without thought as to what they say about us or how they might be used against us. Quite apart from our own indiscretions there is the growing problem of cyber-security. Banks are being hacked all the time. Personal email accounts are attacked with monotonous regularity. Security systems struggle to keep up with inventive and malicious intruders.

Criminal activity apart, what standards should we be entitled to expect from the new confidants in whom we place our trust? What protection do we have against calumny and detraction? Once malicious chatter took place over the garden fence and so was restricted; now it is available on the internet for all to see. We usually spend little time thinking about these things until something happens that disrupts our lives. Then it is too late.

Social media have come in for some heavy criticism. Whether used to promote or denigrate people and products they are powerful tools with, at present, little regulation. Without turning every country into a ‘nanny state’ can we identify a level of control that protects us and makes us responsible at the same time?

Terrific Mentors International will address some of these questions, in particular those about the social media, at our next Drink & Think Soiree in late November. We shall to discuss the role of Government in protecting our property and reputation, the regulation of social media and, inevitably, the role of free speech in the democratic process.

How free should free be?