The Reality of Privacy Today

By Evolution Shift Archives
Cover image for  article: The Reality of Privacy Today

There are a number of talented and smart people that blog for MediaBizBloggers. I am happy to be included in this group. Much of what is written in this community is about media, which of course is expected. There are only a few of us who write about issues that transcend media. In addition to me, the other blogger here that has written very passionately and intelligently about the huge and on-going issue of privacy is Jaffer Ali.

I have largely enjoyed his columns in this space until the one he recently wrote in which he used the word “disgusting” to describe my view of privacy. It really struck me as I don’t think I have heard that word used to describe me since my active participation in anti- Vietnam war demonstrations provoked some supporters of that war to call my actions “disgusting.” Sometimes speaking the truth and standing up to point it out provokes such language.

In a column I wrote for this space and in a recently published eBook, I basically took the point of view that the privacy our grandparents and parents had has been largely eviscerated. This means that we largely live in a world of no privacy. We must accept this and begin to have the conversation about the new social contracts, ethics and relationship between the public and private sector that recognizes this reality. As I wrote in this space:

"The purpose of this book is to prompt a larger, deeper discussion of privacy and the future of privacy than is currently going on. Through our use of technology, our desire for convenience, our sharing of information in social media and of course the almost mind-boggling depth and breadth of NSA surveillance we are now in a place where the traditional sense of what is private has been shredded.

The conversation about privacy for the United States and for all the developed countries of the world must now move forward. The current reporting and discussion on the media is still on a low and reactive level. Do we have privacy? What is the valid trade-off between national security and personal privacy? What is Mr. Snowden up to? Here is the latest revelation about the magnitude of NSA surveillance reported in breathless or indignant tone.

What we must now do is to begin the discussion about what society looks like in a world of no privacy. What are the moral and ethical adjustments individuals must make? What are the new social contracts between businesses, governments and individuals? How do we protect our nation from physical and cyber attacks and still protect our citizens’ individual rights?"

Ali called me "disgusting" because I basically stated that we live in a world of no privacy and that it is time to accept that and initiate, even demand, that society have an open conversation about how we can both accept that and still have a free and open democracy. Ali wrote:

We must resist the Eric Schmidts and David Houles of this world who don’t quite understand the difference between what ‘is’ and what ‘should be.’ Morality and ethics lie in what ‘should be.’

All my life I have had problems with people who use the word “should” as in I “should” do that or this is the way I “should” act. They usually are acting from moral superiority tied to some belief system they want the world to adhere to. In this case Ali, whose passionate demand for the advertising community to stand up and accept complicity in our loss of privacy with such entities as Google and Facebook I agree with, states that we cannot allow ourselves to accept what is and instead live for a “should be.”

The first thing to do when having a discussion is to accept what is as the point of departure. We can then dream of what might be, we can demand what “should be” but to not start from “what is” renders any such discussion abstract and theoretical.

Since the great Lou Reed died in November – may he rest in peace – I have been listening obsessively to the music of this iconic figure. I have also devoured dozens of clips of him on YouTube. One is particularly relevant for this column. When, last summer in Cannes, he was asked what he thought about the Snowden revelations [question on Snowden starts around 1:30], he said he was speechless and mentioned Obama lying about Verizon capturing all cell records. As Lou said, “That was our guy,” which was why he was so shocked.

So in a world where “our guy” expands upon the Bush-Cheney Patriot Act, and lies to the American public about surveillance, it might not be what “should be” but it is reality. It is essential for any valid social discussion to begin with “what is.” That is not “disgusting,” that is intelligent.


David Houle is a futurist, strategist and speaker. He has always been slightly ahead of the curve.Houle spent more than 20 years in media and entertainment. Most recently, David is a featured contributor to Check him out here David can be contacted at

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