In a Word . . . privacy

It used to be an invitation to establish, without delay, what was being hidden

 

So much to laugh at. Yes, the gnawing anxiety over invasion of privacy, prompted by the growth of social media in recent years, has at times prompted me to just laugh out loud.

Last May the London-based data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica closed down after revelations it had worked with the Trump campaign in 2016 and benefited from a massive leak of Facebook information.

And there have been suggestions of similar ‘interference’ on the Brexit side in the 2016 referendum on the UK leaving the EU.

Such shock and horror as followed these revelations! Nothing like it had ever, ever happened before and would never, ever happen again? Of course not! Don’t hold your breath.

In June research in the US revealed that teenagers there had abandoned Facebook in favour of Snapchat and Instagram due to privacy concerns. Bless their innocent souls.

Precious creatures. They would never have survived small town Ireland or the Fianna Fáil political machine that was. Back there where privacy was an invitation to establish, without delay, what was being hidden.

For why else would there be privacy?

Rumour and gossip

It was rarely necessary to do much investigating anyhow. Rumour and gossip filled in the gaps and, sometimes, were even true. It didn’t matter. A plausible explanation, with a seasoning of mild sensation, was all that was required to allay curiosity. Simpler times.

Born into a Fianna Fáil family with my father a councillor, in our house we knew the political allegiance of ever family locally and of their seed and breed going back generations but, even more pertinently, the identities of every likely waverer among them who might be ripe for some gentle (generally) persuasion. Who needed data analytics?

Indeed, growing up, my own extensive knowledge of the town and its inhabitants was not confined to the people. I knew every dog, its name and temperament. Despite which I was bitten twice.

Inevitably, at that age, I missed out on the more salacious stories, even if there was no sex then.

But hints of some unusual arrangements were noticed when they inspired some wink and elbow chat among animated adults who, on realising they were being listened to, pronounced the firm direction “…go out and play, you!”

Privacy, it’s a bit like Utopia. A map of the world is not complete without it.

And it’s about as real.

Privacy/private, From Latin privates, ‘set apart, belonging to oneself.’

inaword@irishtimes.com

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