Privacy in the New Digital Era: What Have We Got To Hide?
“Mr.Zuckerberg,” asked senator Dick Durbin, regarding the way the Facebook CEO perceives his privacy, “Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?”
“Um…” Zuckerberg took his time to answer as dozens of TV and newspaper cameras watched on. “No.” said the young man in the suit and tie. The crowd chuckled awkwardly as he answered the surprising question.
“If you’ve messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?” Durbin continued to inquire.
“Senator, no, I would probably not choose to do that publicly here,” Zuckerberg said, more avidly than before. But senator Durbin, like many of his colleagues, did not seem satisfied; even as Zuckerberg’s baby face looked back at them with a humbled look.
For over six hours, Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testified before the Senate in Washington. Zuckerberg had to explain how the private information of 87 million users had reached the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a data mining company.
In fact, what was being interrogated on that stand was not Facebook, nor its CEO, but the very right to privacy. In an advanced technological world, with an open and increasingly interconnected virtual space, is there any room left for privacy in our lives?
My answer is: almost none. Internet users might fight for it, but the future trend shows that there really isn’t that much to hide.
Laws should indeed be legislated to limit the ability of big monopolies to trade our information and trample our rights. But that is not the main point. Human society is marching into a new age where we’ll all know everything about everyone — from the most basic information that any minor computer geek can easily track, to the most supposedly embarrassing deeds we try to hide from the eyes of our neighbors and colleagues.
We are about to experience a major transformation of what we feel ashamed about, a new era where everything becomes disclosed. It will soon become clear that we are all made of the same material.
Overcoming the Façade of Righteousness and Seeing Ourselves as We Are
A short glance at the leaders of our world today and their public image, reveals the naked truth: President Clinton had extramarital sexual affairs, President Trump is now faced with accusations of cheating on his wife with porn stars, the former prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi boasted about his orgiastic “bunga bunga” parties, stories of Libya’s former dictator, Kaddafi’s passion parties abound, as do a myriad of other rumors of different public personas.
Public personas and officials are no different to anyone else. Their official role does not make them immune to the natural drives and impulses inherent to every man and woman in the world. Every man — from small to great, from worker to leader, from elderly to youth — is driven by desires to enjoy food, sex and family. Regarding these desires, we are no different than any other animal. Therefore, there is no reason to become perplexed about the information revealed about us in social media, it reveals nothing new about our true nature.
If anyone does have a problem with your nature, with your preferences and inclinations, your passions and behaviors, your character and your thoughts, then you can answer them with a line from the Jewish sages: “Go to the craftsman who made me and say to him, ‘How ugly is the vessel which you have made’” (Talmud, Taanit 20a–b).
When we’ll realize we are all made of the same material, each with a different shade and color of desire, privacy will then become a thing of the past. When that happens, we can then delve deeper into what makes us human.
So what does make us human?
We are made up of two levels, the physical-bodily level and the human-spiritual level. On the first level, every person needs to satisfy their corporeal desires. This is all well and good, on condition that no harm is done to anyone in the process. On the second level, there is our internal essence, which is what we need for true, heartfelt connection to others.
This second level is hidden from us. It is the deep level of relationships with others, a spiritual level that is not experienced in our first-level corporeal ties. It is called “the human” in us, as Kabbalists refer to it, and to grasp it further, one needs to consciously evolve.
Since the second level is hidden from us, it is intangible and we cannot feel it. We mistakenly equate our “human” spiritual self to our physical human body. As a result, we create social norms and moral values that limit the use of the human body, i.e. the fulfillment of desires on the first level.
Precisely at this point is where the media enters to take advantage of the way we limit ourselves. The media thrives on celebrating our lack of connection to our inner essence. To continue making money, the media deludes us day and night, producing extravagant shows out of our natural impulses. The media dramatizes behaviors and actions that derive from our instinctive basic drives, instead of reminding us that it is our real nature, and theirs. And so we are gradually brainwashed by a fake value system, praising or reprimanding others for the natural drives they were born with.
A correct version of the media would engage itself in creating positive human connections, “to connect people, to build community and to bring the world closer together’, as Zuckerberg testified before US Congress and the world. The media needs to help elevate us to the second, hidden level; to create a new set of values based not on our bodies and natural impulses, but a set of values aimed at attaining our essence, to strengthen our contribution to society and to encourage good relationships.
Humans are Wired for Connection
The public’s victory in the struggle for privacy will be possible when we begin to develop our “inner human,” and connect meaningfully and positively to others. It is through mutual relations that we will discover nature’s hidden force — a force binding us on all levels, and which is increasingly pressuring us to wake up and face our connection to each other. By attaining such a mutual sensation of nature’s higher force, we will lift the veil of smoke covering what we deem as private and shameful, and this “mystery” surrounding the virtual world will be gone.
The media, with Facebook as one of its current leading players, has the ability to create positive trends that will inspire and elevate humanity to greater connection. They have the power to set the social tone and create a new culture, to sharpen the social perception of reality into a healthy perception of human nature, and to aid every person in adopting new understandings about his or her physical and spiritual drives.
When meaningful content flows in the veins of social networks, no one will be ashamed or afraid of exposure any longer. The more we identify with our spiritual level that is disconnected from any physical need, the more we will be able to be calm about such incidences as this privacy leak of tens of millions of users. We will know how to put our self in the right perspective, the physical and the spiritual. In such a social climate the only shame that will afflict man will be when one takes a hard look at oneself and considers: “Have I invested enough in creating positive relations? Have I contributed to positive connection in society? Have I been considerate of others, the way a ‘human’ should?”