Musings, Privacy

Consider the lols

As some of you may know, last week saw a church group’s WhatsApp chat paraded on social media and lots of brands hop on the trend. Couldn’t be me, we all thought, couldn’t be me.

The day after a certain follower of Christ became the basis of a trending topic, I sent my uncle a message in which I asked him to meet me somewhere & get me something. Nothing salacious (4th floor of the building I was in & a lemonade, respectively) but I felt my face grow hot as I explained why he had received the message (Facebook Messenger was still open and I had typed a message intended for a contact on WhatsApp onto it).

Privacy kept coming to mind every time I saw something related to that trend last week. There were versions of the chat in which members’ names and numbers were not redacted. They are now in the public domain for all manner of people to do as they please. Not what they had in mind when they cast their lot with their fellow believers.

It reminded me about one of the most common pro-surveillance stances: If you have nothing to hide, why be afraid or concerned about privacy? The question is, what is the measure of ‘nothing to hide’? Look at the paragraph in which I detail the contents of my message and remember that human nature could turn even that innocuous message into a tale for corporates to latch on, for a random character to harass one of us, for brands or government to target us. Now, consider privacy. Nothing to hide, yes, nothing to share with the larger world, either.

Kui Kihoro Mackay wrote better than I can about the events of last week and what it says about the situation we find ourselves in: no space is wholly separate from another. Read her brilliant blog post here.

On the topic of privacy, I am reminded of Jill Lepore’s essay, “Privacy in the Age of Publicity”, which traces the path of American thought on privacy as well as her New Yorker Festival lecture on the topic. Worth a (re-)read in light of recent events.

Go then, to the lols, and consider their ways and what they stand for in our lives.

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at readability.com/cuminwrites/

Questions, comments, suggestions or thoughts on privacy? Send them to cuminwrites@gmail.com 🙂

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