Friday, November 15, 2013

Spying and Expectations of Privacy

German scientist with detective camera (Bain News Service/Flickr)

My friend Jim Anton and I were chatting on the phone the other day about all the scandals surrounding government spying. Jim is a scientist who had the fearlessness to teach high-school kids. Now, fortunately for the sake of his blood pressure, he's left the classroom and he and his wife Jean are publishing e-textbooks for exam prep. Jim's comment to me was, "Their having so much personal data really opens up the potential for blackmail." After I thought for a moment, I said, "Maybe not." There's a younger generation with a new set of values. If generalizations in the media can be believed (careful, there), Millenials have little expectation of privacy. At least among your circle of text-able friends, there are no secrets. And aren't we seeing this trend played out every day in the celebrity and political arenas? How was it possible that Anthony Weiner thought he still had a shot in the mayoral race, even after those embarrassing personal disclosures? How is it that Rob Ford thinks he can hang on to his job? Same way, years ago, Marion Berry bounced back. (Hey, "the Three Mayors" should practice singing tenor.) And even though it happened not all that long ago (when Millenials were babes in arms), would the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal last more than a week these days?

Picture it: The shady operative sidles up to you and whispers, "I have pictures of you zipping up your pants, coming out of a cemetery." "Oh, yeah," you say. "Not just me. My homies got snaps up close and personal! I mean, it was hysterical!"

By the way, I turned to Jim for a reality check on the cold fusion process I describe in Farnsworth's Revenge. We agreed:  

The one thing a scientist fears much more than being proven wrong is being made to look ridiculous.

And, thanks to the boobs who have made bogus claims...

Cold Fusion Researcher = Clown
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