Robert W. Gehl, Ph.D. Candidate, Cultural Studies, George Mason University: "Online privacy is not dead, but one wonders if it was ever alive. From the earliest days of the Internet and up to today's time of social networking sites, users have always been subject to possible surveillance by a wide range of entities. At first, the Internet was administered by the U.S. military, which worked to protect the network from unauthorized use. This gave rise to passwords and tracking software to confirm identities and pinpoint intruders. When the Internet was privatized, commercial interests built upon these tools to track users in order to gain consumer data. All of these methods have been resisted by privacy advocates and savvy computer users; there are ways around being constantly watched online. However, the vast majority of people on the Web are not using tools to protect themselves. Privacy isn't dead, but it's too much work for people to protect it."
Is privacy dead or alive? Privacy advocates say it shouldn't be and that we need to be more careful about what we share and don't share online. Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt and others in similar positions say no one wants privacy anymore. And then there are those who stand to make a buck by convincing us that privacy is teetering on the edge of extinction, but their software or their service can help us keep our privacy alive.
Our Lora Bentley decided to throw the question out there to see if anyone else had a different idea. So in a completely unscientific poll of roughly 20 folks who responded to an e-mail, Lora found six who say privacy is alive and three who think it is dead beyond any hope of revival. The more interesting responses came from those who fell somewhere in the middle. Some offer tips for consumers who want to keep their private lives private, others point to what various businesses offer to help do the same. They agree that regulation plays a part, but essentially, they say online privacy is what you make it. You have to decide what you're comfortable disclosing and then do the work required to protect the rest of it.