Just how private are our private lives?


I have my Facebook privacy settings on, I have a public WordPress and LinkedIn profile. I have chosen these settings for my various social profiles because there are some things I am happy to share with everyone, other pieces of information I want only a select few to see.

However if you are a US citizen, try all you like to keep your private life private but be warned you are being watched.

Recently news broke about PRISM, a surveillance program run by the US government intelligence organisation NSA (National Security Agency). It was brought to the public attention by whistle blower Edward Snowden that NSA were secretly tracking and storing US citizens online activity, conversations etc.

Before we get all panicky about this, we could try and look at this from a different perspective.

From a marketing angle our online activities from our shopping habits to the movies we download and webpages we view are monitored. Then we are targeted with offers and similar adverts that may interest us based on our online behaviour.  Facebook try to target specific users with adverts they think are of interest to them based on their Facebook activity.

This brings us onto our social media accounts, where do we think all our data is stored and who else has access to them? As secure as we try and make ourselves online somewhere our private information, information we have willingly parted with, is stored on a giant server.

Every time we sign an agreement with companies we are allowing them access to personal information such as bank account details, date of birth, address, all of which is stored and despite all the high level security in the world is still susceptible to being accessed by those with less than savoury intentions.

Even down to the good old store loyalty cards. Stores are tracking the way we shop, things we are most likely to frequently buy so they can target us with money off coupons making us think we are getting a good deal, but are we really?

Some of the examples used are harmless marketing traits to target us the consumer, most of the time we have knowingly parted with personal details. Problems arise when we are being tracked / watched unknowingly, as in the case of the PRISM scandal. Tracking telephone conversations is usually associated with criminals, not those who are considered to law abiding citizens.

Despite being painted in a negative light the PRISM program does not believe they have done anything wrong, that their tracking is safe and they have not endangered anyone. That a PRISM report states they have followed the three simple rules of safe tracking.

  1. Safe tracking is anonymous.
  2. Safe tracking is transparent, informing users of what is and isn’t private.
  3. Safe tracking respects your privacy, protecting your personal content, connections and conversations.

Safe or not, it is the fact that this type of surveillance was taking place without the US public knowing. This isn’t the same as a mobile company tracking your phone usage, this is the government monitoring the average Joe’s conversation.

It could be argued that the government surveillance program is to protect the country’s citizens and preventing any future terrorist attacks. But has it reached a point that even its own government no longer have trust in its own people that they have taken such measures?

If this type of program exists in USA, how long before news emerges of similar programs existing in other countries, say the UK?


2 thoughts on “Just how private are our private lives?

  1. I keep hearing the same argument from those who seek to defend this blanket surveillance of everyone – that if you’ve done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear from the security services snooping on you.

    Strangely, I’ve yet to hear anyone turn that argument around – if the security services have done nothing wrong then why don’t they want us to know what they are doing?

    I don’t believe PRISM or any of these other programs that are coming to light do anything much to tackle threats from terrorists. Terrorists are the very people who have known (or suspected) for years that security services monitor phone and email traffic and so deliberately minimise their use of these means of communication. (Remember Bin Laden’s refusal to use a cell phone so US satellites could not pinpoint his whereabouts?)

    The only folk who’s conversations and online activity is being monitored by the security services are innocents like you and I, and amateur ‘home-grown’ terrorists. The professional ‘die hard’ terrorists are too smart to be caught passing incriminating information through channels they suspect are being monitored by the security services


    • Thanks for commenting 🙂

      I don’t agree with the PRISM surveillance program and am concerned whether the UK already has something in place.

      I would be intrigued to know how and why this surveillance program was created, how long it has been going on for and who they have been monitoring, all of the USA or specific states.

      Through technology we can be easily tracked, whether we know about it our not. To some extent we have allowed that to happen.

      If my online activity / conversations were being monitored,those doing the monitoring would be very bored – my life is not that interesting 😉


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