The Great Window Illusion

I remember when I first discovered how deceptive the notion of privacy could be.

It happened during a nighttime game of hide-and-seek with my neighborhood pals. I was scurrying in front of my house in search of a suitable hiding place when I noticed I had a crystal-clear view into my kitchen. Bright light streamed out the large windows, beckoning me (and anyone else in the vicinity) to take a look around.

“That’s weird,” I recall thinking.

Like any naive kid, I assumed that when I couldn’t see out the windows, no one could see in.

It was a perfectly logical conclusion for my little-boy mind. Except it was perfectly wrong.

Parading through the house in my underwear would never be the same.

Fast-forward more than three decades, and I’m living in a fishbowl of a different kind.

Today’s privacy issues are eminently more complex and challenging to manage, with most of us striving to walk that delicate balance between living full, open lives while maintaining some degree of personal space.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall prey to the same naïve notion: if I can’t see you, you can’t see me. Or, more precisely, if I’m not aware of being exposed, I must be fully protected.

Just how exposed we truly are, however, is becoming increasingly evident. Whether it’s surveillance cameras or Facebook shell games, the concept of personal privacy is increasingly a façade.

Mark Zuckerberg dubs it “frictionless sharing,” but it may as well be called “evaporating privacy.”

I’m shocked when I consider just how many stalkers are tailing me. Websites remember my name. Advertisers know my hobbies and habits. My cell phone tracks my every move.

Most of the times, I’m oblivious to these breaches or brush them off as a necessary evil of living in our highly connected, somewhat Orwellian society.

But every once in a while, I’m hit with an unexpected photo, note or online relic that I assumed was long gone.

It isn’t.

I’m not ready to batten down the hatches and sacrifice the many benefits of engaging with others online.

If only I could have a wee bit more control over my personal life.

Things were so much simpler when all I needed to do was kill the lights or pull down the shades.


  • Yes, the world was simpler back then. I like the way you have made this comparison.

  • “.. if I’m not aware of being exposed, I must be fully protected” Very true Mike, very true! My iTunes account was recently hacked and I learned quickly Apple didn’t seem to care about the fact someone wiped out my credit card information. In fact I could never speak with a customer service live person, everything was done via email. I won’t be purchasing any more Apple products because I want a company who takes my privacy seriously.