Donald Sterling and the End of Privacy

No matter where you fall on the Donald Sterling drama, his downfall should serve as an important reminder to everyone that the age of expecting privacy, for better or worse, is dead.

It seems that nary a week goes by when some celebrity, athlete, business mogul, or politician doesn’t get caught in a controversy over an email, status update, tweet, or sext. And nearly every time, anyone younger than say thirty-five scratches their head utterly confused at how an otherwise successful person didn’t know better than to put whatever it was out into the universe in the first place.

Right now, there is a legion of Human Resource Managers scouring through the Facebook walls and tweet history of prospective new-hires, looking for warning signs that they couldn’t glean from reading a resume or conducting an interview. Law enforcement and various intelligence services have unprecedented access to our data. And advertisers are busy using vast stores of information about our interests, purchasing history, and associations to tailor highly-targeted ads designed to appeal to us at an individual level  to steer our spending towards the people paying them.

As much as we might like to pretend otherwise, the trend lines are clear. The information age means more and more of our digital lives will be seen by more people and searched by ever-more intelligent algorithms. We can’t expect to get this genie back in the bottle anytime soon.

Therefore, we can no longer reasonably expect to wear a different face in our public and professional lives from what we really are in the security of our homes. The two will be forced to come together eventually. This is a lesson we must learn very quickly to avoid the potential danger, and it’s a lesson we must teach to our children before they begin to have an online presence.

I understand why this new reality is so unsettling, even terrifying to many people. Everyone will have to choose for themselves how to deal with the repercussions.

For me, I’ve long ago decided to drop the filters and pretense and just be fully me, all the time. I say things that sometimes upsets, even offends those who disagree. But it’s out there for everyone to see, critique, and comment on.

As a result, I own myself. No one can blackmail me, because what I say in private is no different from what I say in public. There will be no surprises.

Except all that stuff about Jamaicans. God I hate those people…

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