April 13, 2014

Privacy concerns make a comeback


But, to balance youth’s apathy, I think there’s a growing concern amongst the next generation — the millennials. I see more and more articles and books written by them that decry the loss of privacy, such as Julia Angwin’s book “Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance.” (Now there’s a title that almost eliminates the need to read the book.) A short version can be found in the article in the Opinion Pages of the New York Times, March 3, 2014, edition, “Has Privacy Become a Luxury Good?” by Angwin (

She begins the essay with a nice hook, “Last year, I spent more than $2,200 and countless hours trying to protect my privacy.” Angwin goes on to describe how corporations and governments are invading her privacy as well as yours and mine: Google tailors its ads to content of the text in your emails. British Intelligence collected Yahoo video webcam chats of millions of users not even suspected of any illegal activities — unsurprisingly, many were sexually explicit.

Facebook allows/sells marketers access to your status updates unless you take steps to change the default from “Public” to, say, “Friends.” Even seemingly innocuous news websites auction off your personal data before the page loads — the better to target their ads to you, my dear. And, if you’re still not convinced, just type “creepy or useful” into your favorite search engine.

All of this is to say that it does appear that privacy is being taken more seriously by the general public and, no surprise, there is a level of secrecy practiced by those who would exploit our privacy.

What’s the difference between secrecy and privacy? The best example I’ve run across is this: “It’s no secret as to what we do when we go into a bathroom, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want privacy.”

Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg is an emeritus professor of computer science at SUNY Plattsburgh, retiring after 30 years there. Before that, he worked as a technical writer, programmer and consultant to the U.S. Navy and private Industry. Send comments and suggestions to his blog at, where there is additional text and links. He can also be reached at

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