Internet privacy – an oxymoron?

I often have a chuckle to myself when people talk about privacy and the internet – there is no privacy. Once something is posted, it is there. Essentially forever. However, it has been a long time since we (the general public) have had real privacy: Medicare cards, Tax file numbers, bank accounts for wages deposits these are all systems designed to track information about us and therefore open to exploitation. So whether the information about us is on the web, or on paper, it is possible for personal information to be discovered (See NT example, TAS example, VIC example as just a few more recent examples)

For me, privacy on the internet is more about my financial details, e.g. credit cards, and certain identity details such as birth date, etc. I guess this is what Raynes-Goldie (2010) referred to as informational privacy. It is difficult to never give any of this information out, but I carefully select who I give it to, to minimise my risk: As Raynes-Goldie (2010) points out, in some cases, the benefits of being on the web outweigh the risks.

To mitigate some of the more unflattering potential of a web presence, Pearson (2009) discusses the potential to control your online presence; to make you your brand. This is certainly one way to exercise what little control we have over the web, but I often consider that I am not the kind of person who needs to be discussing privacy and security on the web … it is younger people; the so-called digital natives,  whose living memory has been spent in the on-line environment. I fear that it is these people who are most at risk.

Not necessarily at risk right now but in time, when they begin looking for work, when they realise just how much of them is ‘out there’. And maybe they won’t fully appreciate the need to keep certain financial details private and this exposes them even further. I take what Raynes-Goldie says about better framing the privacy question but I found the statement in the conclusion very pertinent: “The full implications for privacy in the age of Facebook and social media are still unknown…”


Pearson, J. (2009). Life as a dog: Personal identity and the internet. Meanjin, 68(2), 67-77. Retrieved from;dn=200906244;res=APAFT

Raynes-Goldie, K. (2010). Aliases, creeping, and wall cleaning: Understanding privacy in the age of Facebook, First Monday, 15(1), 4 January. Retrieved from