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Privacy’s Dead? That’s Soooo 1999.

When it comes to proclamations that privacy is dead, there’s fashionably late and then there’s showing up for the party after the host has washed the dishes and gone to bed.

In 1999 it caused no small amount of consternation when Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy uttered the now famous line, “You have zero privacy anyway… get over it.” At the time, McNealy’s comments were directed at the many so-called advocates who saw great evil in the designs of those commercial enterprises (including Sun) that were building new and exciting digital businesses.

I have said to anyone who would listen that McNealy was right to poke his finger in the chests of those who sought to restrict Internet-based innovation. Businesses have a compelling reason to build trust and respect consumer sentiment where privacy’s concerned. What was lost in the hysteria of the day was the looming presence of the federal government. In an ironic twist, as those advocates called for more government involvement in the digital lives of a helpless citizenry, the government was already helping itself.

Since the disclosures of whistleblower Edward Snowden, however, more and more people are jumping on board with proclamations of privacy’s demise. We wrote about it at the time, but the obituaries continue to be written.

A recent opinion in The Nation has hit on a key aspect of the current hysteria, however. We know snooping is happening, but what are we doing about it? Are we writing to our members of Congress and asking for more information or investigations? Or are we merely posting our dismay to Facebook and Twitter and getting on with our lives?

As computer security expert Eugene Kaspersky told the Wall Street Journal today, the tools and conveniences of the digital age come at a cost. We can either unplug and disengage, or we can change our online behavior and do what we can to protect ourselves.

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