Privacy is a concept that, in the early years of the United States, was assumed to be part and parcel of life. Communication across the country did not even have telegraph. Newspapers were expensive to distribute very far; mail was expensive – if possible. Government records were often on paper, often not. In your town, gossip was the intruder on privacy. In fact, privacy was so complete that you could move to the next county or two and start life all over again: new name, new curriculum vitae; your privacy was absolute.
Criminals like Jesse James could ride from county to county and town to town with only a weak trail of infamy. It was the Eastern novel writers that made him famous. It was possible for criminals to move about freely, even crossing into Mexico and Canada at will.
What whittled away at privacy – including the privacy of those of us who are innocent, was technology. Telegraph came first, then improvements in printing, the telephone, country-wide radio broadcasting, then television. Today it is the Internet, satellites and all the communication accoutrement that comes with it. Virtually every corner has a camera; many stoplights have cameras; eavesdropping is absolute at the National Security Agency where your telephone conversations can be culled from millions of other simultaneous telephone conversations. Current news is talking about drones.
The next wave invading privacy is already upon us and will soon mandate every person’s participation. It is called “the cloud.” Cloud technology will do away with privacy all together. Desk top computers will disappear because all your software and private files will be stored online somewhere accessible by any nosy inquirer who pays for access to your records. Did you know that Google already reads all your email and recommends products and services to you based on even one word in your text – if not all of them?
Your home is no longer your private castle. It is as porous as a sieve.
The mariner can go on and on about the advances of technology and marketing (even your cell phone is not free of marketing). What is more important to the mariner is the crushing elimination of the concept of privacy. It is so severe that children growing up in today’s world dismiss privacy because of the communication, education, and convenience of these devices. They don’t know that an army of marketers, governments, and criminals are taking in all that traffic without their permission. Insects used to be the only invaders in our homes, now it’s bugs of a different kind: spam, website tracking, Trojans that take over your machine – all without asking permission. That’s the rub. No one asks your permission. Your privacy doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to the purveyors of your name and assets. Going to the grocery store is tracked by cameras on the way there and a record of your charges showing what you bought is collected. But they didn’t ask your permission.
Compromising privacy for the sake of protection against illegal behavior is one thing but all privacy is lost when criminals are one of the technology parties wanting to know everything about you.
I miss living a life that was mine. I miss engaging in the world on my own terms. I miss privacy. It is nice to be able to sail away from all this. The ocean doesn’t care who you are, where you’re going and, despite the anxieties of landlubbers, is a peaceful place.