Our privacy has been taken from us; it’s time we start taking it back

The future of privacy is tenuous and paramount

We’ve all heard something like it — “be careful what you post on social media, one day your future employer, spouse, friend, family member may see it even if you don’t want them too.” It’s not bad advice by any means, but today it does not quite apply the same. Private accounts, unsent tweets, secret follows, hidden messages all of these things exist in the social space free from the prying eyes of any future boss or HR representative, but what if they didn’t? It is a scary thought, one we must get ahead of. Moving forward in a digital world it is imperative that we sustain the privacy of every individual by the fullest extent of the law.

It’s becoming increasingly common for employers to not only monitor the accounts of their employees but to go so far as requesting, and in some cases receiving, the passwords to their social media accounts. So common in fact that the state of California has passed a law that prohibits employers from even asking employees for this type of information. Related legislation in the golden state also protects university students from facing similar situations. Soon the state of New York will face their own bill just like the one in California. Make no mistake, this bill must be passed immediately and unequivocally.

Privacy is at its most important point in history and its most vulnerable. With just the tap of a finger the entire personal history of an individual is up for grabs by billions of grasping hands and prying eyes. In the hands of the tech giants that control so much of our lives, privacy is a necessary sacrifice. The entire business model of Google, Facebook and any number of ad companies just like them is the intentional, thorough invasion of the privacy of billions of people. When left up to them privacy is nothing but an afterthought. Our government, sworn to protect those it serves, must act in place of the predatory tech companies, overbearing employers and bad actors who want nothing more than the unlimited exposure of every morsel of personal information in existence. As it stands our government is the last line of support, and it’s time to bolster that support.

What we are dealing with here is not just the possible infringement of a couple of social media accounts, it’s much more than that. To say it is a slippery slope is a gross underestimation of just how slippery and steep one slope can get. If an employer can ask for an employee or even an applicant’s social media information what is stopping them from asking for much more. Our social media accounts are ours just as much as our bank accounts or the locks on the front door. Once they have the keys to your phone they will move on to the next sensitive outlet and before you know it every fry cook at McDonald’s will be bringing their manager home with them every night whether they know it or not. It’s not only a matter of escalation but also one of vulnerability. The power balance in an employer-employee relationship is troublesome at best in the 21st century. The simple ask of a question has so much power that even the implication that an employee should hand over sensitive information is often enough to get it. This bill will not only protect the privacy of employees and applicants but also concede power back to the worker which is always a victory, no matter how small the concession may be.

The journey to securing our personal privacy will be the struggle of this generation. Every step we can take on this trek is essential, no matter how small it may be. California is already behind this law, soon New York will be too and other states are sure to follow. Let’s push that piece of ivory over the edge and let the dominoes fall. It’s time to protect and to empower the most important people in our society — the individual. To the New York legislature, you know what must be done.

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henry long

henry long

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