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Pandora’s Inbox: The Death of Privacy

Pandora’s Inbox: The Death of Privacy

Do you know what the biggest issue of this presidential campaign has been, even though it has gone totally unmentioned?


We live in a time where nothing is private anymore. Whatever you write in an email is subject to out-of-context microscopic scrutiny, even if it was illegally stolen.

Whatever you say on a hot mic is public fare, even if you didn’t know the mic was recording.

Whatever weird sexual proclivities you are guilty of in private are now the baseline for your public reputation.

Whatever the estranged husband of your work associate has done to humiliate himself, it’s now your humiliation by extension.

You are not just guilty of your sins. You are guilty of everyone’s who emails you, talks to you, or knows someone who has.

If it’s in your spam box, you will be judged on it.

Welcome to 2016.

By 2020, we’ll be looking at candidates’ bathroom pics, and judging how everyone wipes their butt. Instead of how they’d vote on TPP, we’ll be counting how many squares of TP they use. The first debate question will be, Front to back or back to front? TV ads will bellow, How dare my opponent leave the seat up!

You think I’m joking? What happens when we learn our laptop and smartphone cameras have been recording us for years, even when we were Tweeting on the toilet? (You know you do.) What happens when we find out that every angry email we sent to an ex-lover or about our asshole boss becomes public fodder? Alec Baldwin’s career was almost destroyed by an angry private voice message he left for his daughter that became part of the public record in his divorce. Would you want every embarrassing conversation you ever had with your kids/spouse/siblings/lovers made public?

In the search for transparency, we’ve made privacy invisible.

Society used to have some standards for wiretapping. We couldn’t even wiretap a mafia boss or drug cartel chieftain without a court order (or series of them). But now we can hack and share everyone’s most private thoughts with impunity. Should you curse or say something in anger about a political opponent, or even ruminate out loud about actions you’d never really take, you’ll be judged out of context and by standards that few humans can live up to.

And now it’s not just about what you consciously write or send in an email. You’re deemed guilty over what you receive, and you’re guilty over what your email software does that you didn’t even know about. Would you like to be judged by what’s in your Junk mail or Spam box? Because I assure you, someone will try.

Look at Huma Abedin. She probably logged into her Yahoo and accounts a few times from her husband’s laptop just out of momentary convenience. Maybe they were in bed at the end of the day and she wanted to see if she had any late-night work emails she needed to respond to. Then, years later, she learns that in doing so, she inadvertently downloaded her entire  Yahoo mail account and account – tens of thousands of emails she never meant to store there – possibly including classified material that she never knowingly would have opened on that machine. Now, not only might that get her indicted, it could cost her mentor the presidency.

Brought to us all via the miracle of Yahoo mail.

The idea of a private server was to maintain one’s privacy. Now it’s a scarlet letter of public shame. How dare a public figure want to keep some part of her life private from the masses! Shame on Hillary for not wanting us to know what she says to her husband and daughter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! How dare Anthony Weiner or Donald Trump try to keep their darkest bedroom secrets a secret! How dare someone think they can have a personal thought not shared with the world!

In the past you’d be condemned for having illicit sex. Now you’re condemned for talking or texting about having illicit sex. Soon it will be thinking about it.

Once we were taught that asking someone’s income was considered rude. Now not sharing ten years worth of tax returns is considered rude. And if you’ve ever told a tall fish story – about a scary airplane landing or a romantic conquest – you will be tried and convicted for the exaggeration. We will fact-check your life until every misspeak and white lie has been dissected, deconstructed and blown up into a federal offense. Hillary didn’t run from the plane. Donald didn’t lose any friends on 9/11. Repeat the video clips endlessly and let the public stoning commence.

We used to be embarrassed by mug shots or sexts, things most people could reasonably avoid. What happens when everyone’s worst selfie – the ones you deleted immediately – get magically resurrected to become your public photo d’jour?

Technology is stealing our last vestiges of privacy and humanity, yet we are blindly allowing it to happen…even encouraging it. But what happens when nothing you say outside of your home is private? Every word uttered in a hotel room, in your car, in school, in the break room at work, in a cab, on a plane, in your church confessional – EVERYWHERE – is all somehow captured and made public just to humiliate you. Could you survive your worst moments becoming a New York Times headline? Would you want your worst, most ill-conceived emails being read on CNN?

We used to worry about opening a Pandora’s Box. Now it’s Pandora’s Inbox. How will you feel when the horrors hiding inside yours are set free into the world?

Privacy (1787–2016). RIP.


Kevin Kelton is co-host of the More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook political debate group, Open Fire.

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One comment on “Pandora’s Inbox: The Death of Privacy

  1. Nancy Newton says:

    While I agree with most of what you write, tax paid, public (elected or appointed) officials are not above US laws. We are a nation of Laws, NOT a nation of men.
    Nancy Newton

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