A contestant on the BBC’s reality show The Apprentice got into trouble recently for having photos of her boobs splashed all over the internet. Did she really get in trouble? Or did she generate a load of free publicity and jump start her career in media?
I ask this question because I recently went to a talk at my teenage son’s school on the subject of internet safety (obviously that Apprentice candidate should have gone to a talk like that.) One of the topics discussed was sexting, which is where teenage girls send nude photos of themselves to prospective boyfriends to find out if they want to have sex. There are two things these girls need to know. The first is that boys always want to have sex with them, so there’s no need to send them pics. The second is that photos like this may turn up later in unexpected places.
These days the world is saturated with boobs. We have a boob mountain, like the European Union used to have butter and sugar mountains. There are boobs everywhere. Now this could be very demeaning to women, or it could be that we are becoming desensitised, and that could be a good thing. If embarrassing photos are in abundance, there’s less need to worry about your embarrassing photos. What’s this? More pics of boobs? Just put them straight in the trash folder!
The same thing applies more generally to issues of privacy. We’ve had the internet for over a decade now, so surely everyone’s privacy has been compromised already, yet still we bang on about privacy. When are we going to wake up to the fact that privacy is in the past?
Privacy advocates are starting to sound like Victorian ladies desperately covering up their ankles in case gentlemen are overcome with lust. We moved on from that kind of sexual repression, and the world still turns. Let’s loosen up over privacy and get used to the idea that it no longer exists, or not in the way that it used to.
After all, Facebook and Twitter are systematically undermining the entire concept of privacy. And Google’s mission statement is to steal the world’s data and share it with everyone. Or is that Wikileaks? I always get those two mixed up.
It doesn’t matter. It makes no difference whether you’re a government or an individual, your behaviour is no longer private. The more you cover up, the more old-fashioned you’re going to look.
This is already happening and is going to accelerate once wearable electronics like Google Glass goes mainstream. Then nothing will be secret any more. If we handle this maturely, it could be the best thing ever. Secret filming of criminals is often used to good effect on TV documentaries. Filming of life in general could help to catch criminals and expose anti-social behaviour. After all, look at what happened in the 1970s when dirty, shameful secrets remained hidden (I’m talking about you, Jimmy Saville, and you, Stuart Hall, and a thousand others like you.) If removing privacy helps stop that kind of behaviour, then I say, bring it on. We have nothing to lose except our embarrassment.