Monday, August 29, 2011

On Privacy

Or maybe this post should be called “On Hypocrisy” because I just asked someone on FaceSmack to take a picture of Spawn and me off this person's wall.  The very picture I’ve shared here on the Whorled Web.  (What do you mean it’s “world”?  Have you seen this place?)  So why did it bother me so much that this picture was shared with random strangers when I’ve already shared it with random strangers?

(‘Cause you all are random and more than a few of you are really strange.  I love you, but you are.  Own it, weirdos!)

I mean, let’s face it; there is no such thing as privacy.  Not real privacy, not any more.  If you’ve ever gone on-line (and if you are reading this and just said “ha, not me” then you are not only random and strange, you are also possibly delusional and they have a cream for that), then you know how this can be so.  But the thing is, there never really was such a thing as “real” privacy.  There is only “perceived” privacy and that’s socially constructed.  

We all live in houses/apartments/yadda yadda yadda that have windows.  Pretty much anyone can look in them, using one way or another, but for the most part, we don’t.  Oh, we glance, we peer when we think no one is looking, but stand and stare right at the people as they eat dinner?  No, not really.  And if you do, those people can call the cops and call it “invasion of privacy.”  That’s because what is in the house is considered private. 

But a nice garden, now that’s not so private.  Everyone can stop and look and sniff the flowers, as long as you don’t go wandering around, and you should probably ask before you take cuttings, but as long as you keep it to the roses that hang out over the sidewalk, I’m not going to really get upset about it. 

Walking down the street is not private at all and you can not only stare, you can make comments about my appearance and really I can’t do much about it.  Other than give you the stink eye.  Which I will.  Big ol’ stink eye!

But really, all of these levels of privacy are social constructs.  We decided as a society that the street is public and what goes on there is protected by laws that we invented.  Hyenas, for example, have no first amendment.  We then decided how much privacy front gardens deserved and made laws that protect what we as a society had decided were appropriate.  We then invented privacy for the home, because until relatively recently, homes were shared by many and the idea of “what goes on in the home is private” would have seemed very odd to our ancestors who shared hearths.  Hell, go to other countries and you’ll see completely different interpretations of privacy.

What does this all mean?  It means that while the internet is the street and anything goes, my blog is my garden.  You are welcome to stop and smell the flowers and I really can’t expect you not to take some cuttings now and again, so I make sure that what I put out there is, hopefully, worthwhile.  I don’t use real names and I choose what images I post carefully.  The CrackBook, on the other hand is my home.   In order to get access, you have to ask permission to enter.   Generally that suggests, to sane and rational people, that some people might, just might, consider that space to be private. 

I prefer to keep the two separate - I don’t link my accounts to each other.  Many of you have permission to enter both Rhymes-with-MaceHook and here, and I’d probably invite all of you into my “home” (although not in real life because it’s a total disaster at the moment, pardon my dust bunnies), I just like to keep my worlds separate, you know?  And 99.99% of you totally respect that, even if you don’t agree entirely with my reasoning or where I draw the line in public and private.  But when someone in my metaphorical home snatches the metaphorical bouquet of flowers from my garden off my metaphorical dinning table and sticks ‘em, with a big name tag, on a metaphorical table in a metaphorical convention center, I get a little miffed.

“Oh but I only wanted to share it with family,” I can hear the excuse now.

This is why the good Lord invented email.  And attachments.  And why not tell the family member to friend me, for christ’s sakes?  Or hey, ASK ME if you can share the photo.  I probably would have said okay.  I mean, really, I’ve shared that photo with the multi-verse, so I’m certainly not ashamed of it… it’s just, well, it’s mine.  To share.  As I see fit.

So I don’t feel too hypocritical asking for this photo to be removed.  Taking something without permission from my home is stealing.  Even if it’s a cup of sugar that I totally would have given you if you had just ASKED!

Boundaries, dude, we haz them.


  1. Anonymous4:21 PM

    No, I get it. I think if I start a family, it will be a nightmare keeping photos of my kids off the internet. I am going to want to email them to family for sure but social networking has changed everything. ARGH.

  2. Common courtesy. I always give people a fair and polite warning, based on the assumption that they really are that clueless, but if the offending material is not taken down, I have no problem reporting it and having an account deleted or a website shut down.

    The worst is when I find people who use the photos I took MYSELF for MY shop in their shop because that's just wrong on soooo many levels. It does nothing for my blood pressure.

  3. At first I was all "I'm not putting pictures of my child on the internets!" and went through all the fuss to figure out how I was going to disseminate images and realized what a bitch it was. Then I saw how many child pictures are on mommy blogs and other people's blogs and social networking sites and I thought, "who am I to think that my child is so freaking special that some psycho is going to track me down and kidnap her?" No naked pictures, no suggestive pictures, and once she's older, I doubt she'll want pictures on-line and I'll bow to her desires. Meanwhile I'll be on the look out for sketchy people staring at my child and be ready to go all ape-shit on their asses.

  4. I'm a picture freak, which you well know...but I don't take other people's pictures and share them. Unless I'm in them, and I still ask.

    My nieces and nephews in my pics are usually tagged with their mamas names, but one of my sister-in-laws has specifically asked me not to do that. So I don't. Because while I love my nephew...he's my nephew, but he's her kid, and so that's her right.

    I can't imagine putting one of your pictures on my facebook and sharing it without your permission, and I'm your bff, for fuck sake. Some people are just clueless.

  5. Same thing happened to me. I took a picture of someone's daughter (with her permission, of course) and put it on facebook because it was some sort of friends gathering.

    The said mother didn't just tag / share my picture, but actually copy paste my picture into her own album, without saying a thing. It's her daughter, true, but that's my picture

  6. Anonymous12:20 PM

    Oh, I wouldn't try to keep it off the internet out of fear of predators (that's not going to happen, right?) but rather... when people put pictures up of *me* on fb (et al) that are unflattering or whatever, I feel a bit exposed. When I have had the "oh, please, put this all on fb!!" chat at the party, it is different.

    I don't want to have my kid grow up and be like, wow, Mum, you've been scattering me all over the internet and I don't even LIKE that photo.

    Maybe my hypothetical kid wants some mystique amongst my friends? I don't even know. I bloody love looking at my friends' babies on the internet so I am a major hypocrite.

    But it's a Canute-ian task now, all this sharing is a game changer. I doubt there is much I can do, save buying a yurt and dropping out, to keep family photos totally private.

  7. I don't know about dropping off the grid, A&J - but you should TOTALLY get a yurt!


Keep it clean, don't be mean....