Headbone connects to the headphones
Headphones connect to the iPhone
iPhone connected to the Internet
Connected to the Google
Connected to the government.
—M.I.A., "The Message"
You are being watched.
Your Facebook friends are watching you. So are their Facebook friends, and total strangers. The guys who run Facebook, too. Your keystrokes are being logged. Your mouse-clicks are being monitored and digested. Your behavioral patterns are being analyzed, monetized: what you buy on Amazon, who you follow on Twitter, where you say you eat on Yelp, your most shameful Google searches.
The photos you post on Flickr are encoded with little bits of geospatial metadata that pinpoint where they were taken and can reveal where you live. Your smartphone — jam-packed with apps coded by who-knows-who and potentially loaded with spyware — is a pocket homing beacon, trackable by satellite. There are trucks with cameras on their roofs, trundling past your apartment, duly noting your unsecured Wi-Fi signal.
Wal-Mart is putting RFID tags in your underwear.
You can barely remember all the different passwords to the ever-proliferating number of Web sites to which you've entrusted personal photos and videos, likes and dislikes, credit-card info and your Social Security number. Then there are the photos of you that other people have posted without your knowledge, or the things they may have written about you on blogs or message boards — things that have a good chance of remaining online and searchable for perpetuity.
And that's to say nothing of the vast and classified surveillance apparatus — "so large, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it, or exactly how many agencies do the same work," according to the Washington Post — that could (who knows?!) be silently taking note of the e-mails you've sent and the phone calls you've made.
Public is the new private
Over just the past decade or so, the Web has turned things upside down. As Danah Boyd said, speaking this past spring at SXSW in Austin, we've seen "an inversion of defaults when it comes to what's public and what's private."
Time was, what you said and did "private by default, public through effort," said Boyd, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. That's all changed: "conversation is public by default, private through effort. You actually have to think about making something private because, by default, it is going to be accessible to a much broader audience . . . And, needless to say, people make a lot of mistakes learning this."