This is the second installment of a series of posts addressing the issue of Privacy.
As one of the Core Values I articulated in The Old Money Book, Privacy is essential to living a full, rewarding life. You just can’t have your business in the street.
One of the French sayings I think I’ve mentioned in the past, no doubt minted by a Parisian, is ‘To live well, live in secret.’ Most of your life should be free from the inspection of others. It’s easier to listen to your inner voice. It’s easier to consider your options. It’s easier to make sound decisions. It’s easier to change your mind. It’s easier to avoid envy. It’s easier to avoid undue influence.
With all these merits, still, secrecy in the modern world seems almost impossible. The best we can hope for is to maintain our privacy. Even that may appear a daunting task as our lives and personal information have migrated onto the internet. Our most personal details appear to be nesting there permanently, out of our control for the most part, and, like low-hanging fruit, waiting to be cherry-picked by those who would use it to profit at our expense.
Privacy, however, is at the core of independence. It is a cornerstone of liberty. For if someone knows what you’re reading, writing, and thinking all the time, they can more easily control you. (China, Russia.) So your ‘personal information’ (your search history, your financial history, your political leanings, your online purchases, etc) becomes the high-value target in this war.
From this perspective, it’s important to see your personal data as an asset. Tech companies certainly do. They use your information to tailor the search results you see online and the ads you see on social media, to advertise products and services to you at every turn, and to influence your opinion. The only problem is: the intellectual property their using to do this–your personal information–is not rightfully theirs to use. Unless you consciously or negligently consent and allow them to continue using it.
These companies make money by tracking you online, compiling personal information, and then selling it to companies who want to market things to you and, perhaps more dangerously, by offering it to governments who want to monitor and shape your opinion, and limit your perceived choices.
You may already know this, and I’m sure some readers know more about it than I do. (Feel free to comment and share as always, leaving conspiracy theories and politics at the door.)
My suspicion is that, in the long run, when a majority of Americans realize what the online business model really is, and how companies are using our personal assets to make billions, while we get nothing in return–and sacrifice our privacy–the proverbial worm will turn. This will benefit us personally, and our society collectively. The immediate benefit to this awareness is the ability to live more of an Old Money life, in which Privacy is sacred.
So become more aware. Look into the movement to Own Your Data. See your personal information for the treasure it is.