Privacy Is Not For You -- Be a Zombie

By Evelyn Castillo-Bach
Journalists reporting on privacy issues are in a tight spot. They know many truths. Communicating what they know demands skill and nuance. Nearly all work for organizations that rely on advertizing revenues for survival, the life blood of all media outlets, no matter if It's print, online, or broadcasting. The inner whisper is ever present: "Careful not to bite the hand that feeds you."

Unlike many of us, they really get it and know how privacy is being eroded and violated at an alarming rate. Precisely because of the amount of research done by journalists before publishing on this issue, they are exceedingly well informed. For them, what they don't say is a matter of self preservation not ignorance. Many are profoundly alarmed by their findings. But expressing that alarm without coming across as adversarial or like crusaders is not easy to do and many feel professionally obligated not to cross that line. That's understandable. But does it serve the best interest of the general public?

It is instructive that in Europe, for instance, where media also relies on ad revenues, the journalistic coverage on privacy is far more rigorous and critical. Maybe it's because the two largest giants most frequently cited for privacy violations are the US-based companies, Facebook and Google.

Connecting the dots that way may offer us a quick and dirty way to dismiss the Europeans, but it misses the mark. Europeans are simply more sophisticated and better informed when it comes to personal privacy and why it's important to reign in the activities of corporations that are sucking up every piece of personal data that is not nailed down.

You have to wonder if the time has come when American journalists can learn something from their European colleagues. With rare exceptions, you will not see American journalists lining up to hit hard the corporate giants. They are not taking on the role of advocates and protectors of long-held American freedoms, like the right to privacy. On the contrary, they giggle and delight at the latest cool features added, smiling away privacy concerns that should be the core focus of their attention. We can all see what's cool. We need help seeing what's dangerous. Corporate giants have unwittingly or not intimidated or seduced American journalists into meek complacency and relative silence. But, if you read and listen carefully, sometimes you can hear the alarm warning you in the background, buried within the facts that the journalist reports, tucked between the giggles.

It's up to us to pay attention. However, I doubt that most of us can hear the alarm that is too quiet to win our attention. I suspect that we, as Americans, are not very good at reading between the lines. We like our facts served up fast and dirty, in our face, full blast. No subtlety, please. When someone screams out at us, it gets our attention even if only briefly. If someone whispers a vital truth, we don't hear a thing or we dismiss it as not worthy of our attention. Or maybe, the corporate giants have done a very good job telling their story: Public is the new way. Privacy is not for you. Trust us, relax, have fun. Be a Zombie.


Evelyn Castillo-Bach is the founder of
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