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Concerns about online-privacy have always struck me as bit overwrought, if not downright absurd. The handwringing libertarian privacy absolutists would have us believe that information that is readily available in our offline lives deserves Top Secret level classification when put online (“Google knows my zip code and can use if for their nefarious purposes!”).

With the blurring of distinctions between online and offline information, though, this fretting about how this data is collected—particularly when it can’t be used to identify particular individuals—seem to be as peculiar as the worries in the 1950s about fluoridation of public water supplies

But while I find the privacy paranoiacs unconvincing, Nicholas Carr makes an interesting claim about the importance of privacy:

Privacy is not only essential to life and liberty; it’s essential to the pursuit of happiness, in the broadest and deepest sense of that phrase. It’s essential, as [Bruce Schneier] implies, to the development of individuality, of unique personality. We human beings are not just social creatures; we’re also private creatures. What we don’t share is as important as what we do share. The way that we choose to define the boundary between our public self and our private self will vary greatly from person to person, which is exactly why it’s so important to be ever vigilant in defending everyone’s ability and power to set that boundary as he or she sees fit. Today, online services and databases play increasingly important roles in our public and our private lives - and in the way we choose to distinguish between them. Many of those services and databases are under corporate control, operated for profit by companies like Google and Facebook. If those companies can’t be trusted to respect and defend the privacy rights of their users, they should be spurned.

Privacy is the skin of the self. Strip it away, and in no time desiccation sets in.

What do you think? Is privacy as essential as Carr claims or it is being overemphasized by a culture that prizes individualism too highly?

(Via: Alan Jacobs )

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