Warning: You are being watched

By Gwyneth Shoecraft

Gwyneth Shoecraft

Imagine this scenario: You step into an empty elevator, the doors shut and you are alone. You quickly snap a picture of yourself, and carefully save it to your iCloud account. The doors open and you step out of the elevator.

That short elevator ride occurs in what we consider complete privacy. There are few places in public where we feel afforded some privacy; one of which is behind the closed doors of elevators.

Yet an elevator ride is indeed not private, as news headlines repeatedly remind us. Desmond Hague, the now former CEO of large concession company Centerplate, was recently caught on an elevator surveillance camera abusing a dog. Though his actions were undeniably wrong, Hague was likely bolstered by the belief that his actions were private. Jay-Z and Solange Knowles’ infamous elevator fight turned viral video clearly failed to teach Hague that what happens behind the doors of an elevator still happens in front of a camera.

What happens on your own phone camera is not private either. The photo you saved on your password protected iCloud account is also accessible to the public for perusal. Last week, nude photographs of A-list celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna were distributed on the Internet after being stolen from the celebrities’ online storage. The hackers’ ability to gain access to these photos is a warning to the public that online data storage is simply not safe despite password protection.

The old idiom of “behind closed doors” suggests that there are events that can actually occur in complete privacy. Yet in an increasingly digitized world full of smart phones and information stored online, the notion that there is still an element of privacy becomes less absolute.

As Internet-literate students we acknowledge that we must give up a bit of our personal privacy to reap the benefits of an open web. We also know that Facebook and Google make big bucks by targeting ads specifically toward users, and view us not as people and faces but as numbers and commodities. By using their services, we are willingly sharing our interests, likes, dislikes and our shopping preferences.

I am not arguing that we should not use these services, or ever ride on elevators. However, I do believe that we should take these headlines as reminders that we can rarely expect absolute privacy.
The solution is simple: Think before you act. Don’t do or say anything in public or online that you wouldn’t want your future children to see. And remember, as scary as it sounds, you are being watched.