Technology and the voluntary loss of privacy

This is bigger than Katie Hill…

A certain politician from California has been in the hot seat of late because of embarrassing revelations of a highly personal nature. 

Katie Hill, a freshman representative from California, has recently seen her private life aired on the Internet, from The Daily Mail to Twitter… 

And what a colorful private life it is, apparently. Say what you will about Representative Hill and her politics, but she isn’t boring and she isn’t a prude. 

This naturally raises a lot of questions: Should a politician’s sex life be an issue, so long as they aren’t breaking any laws or violating anyone’s rights? Can a politician who leads an unconventional sex life govern effectively?

Politics tends to attract horndogs of both sexes, irrespective of ideology: Consider the examples of Bill Clinton, JFK, and Donald Trump.

Further back in history, consider Catherine the Great and King David. 

That isn’t the angle I want to consider, though. 

I grew up in the 1980s. Back then, unless you were a famous person, most of what you said and did simply wasn’t documented.

Photographs existed, obviously. But individual photos had to be developed, usually at a Fotomat. And since they also had to be printed out on paper, there was a cost associated with them. 

“Instant cameras”, with self-developing film, enjoyed a period of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. But the film was expensive, and the photo quality wasn’t very good. 

Because of such negative cost and convenience factors, people tended to take photos only when it was an “event”: a birthday celebration, a school play, a family portrait, etc. I won’t go so far as to say that having your photo taken was a big deal in the 1980s, but yes…it was kind of a big deal. It didn’t happen every day, for the average person. 

As a result, most of what you said and did died in the moment. There wasn’t this minute-by-minute record of your life that we have now. 

Those technologically primitive times had their benefits. Suppose that you said something dumb, or you did something that pushed a few boundaries. Unless it was really over the top, it was quickly forgotten. 

Which is, I would suggest, the way it should be.

Katie Hill certainly didn’t want her private photos published on the Internet. Her reasonable expectations of privacy were violated. Let’s be unequivocal about that. 

But the vast majority of the photos which came to light were clearly posed. This strongly implies that she consented to them being taken. 

This, in itself, represents a major lapse in judgment. Why, pray tell, would anyone consent to a naked photo of oneself, smoking from a bong, with an iron cross tattoo plainly visible near one’s pubic region?

We’ve bought into the notion that every moment of our lives needs to be Instagrammed, Facebooked, and selfied. Perhaps this is mass vanity, or perhaps this has just become a habit. Either way, it’s what we’re all doing. 

And this isn’t just the Millennials and the GenZers. I have friends in their forties and fifties who seemingly can’t go out to dinner without taking a half-dozen photos of themselves and uploading them to Facebook. 

Look at us, and what a happy couple we are, having a fancy meal out on the town!

More of our lives needs to remain private. But our private lives especially need to remain private. 

How do you define “private”? Here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t consent to any photo of yourself that you wouldn’t want posted on the homepage of The Daily Mail. Because as Katie Hill now knows, that may very well happen.