Editor's letter: The lessons of Kate and Mitt

Who among us has fully absorbed the reality that virtually everyone now lives with the constant possibility of surveillance?

In a secluded villa in the South of France, a comely young duchess removes her bikini top, thus avoiding unseemly tan lines and bringing good cheer to the duke. At a $50,000-a-head fundraiser in Boca Raton, a presidential candidate known for his guarded manner elects to reward the high rollers with some rhetorical porterhouse, displaying naked disdain for the parasitic lower 47 percent. What did Kate Middleton and Mitt Romney both learn, to their squirming consternation, this week? Right: There is no longer any reasonable expectation of privacy by anyone, anywhere.

It might seem naïve for Kate and Mitt to have thought otherwise, but don’t judge them too harshly. Who among us has fully absorbed the reality that virtually everyone—even we commoners—now lives with the constant possibility of surveillance? Technology has rendered everyone transparent; we are all commodities in the great digital marketplace. What books you read, what music you buy, what topics you search, what you write in your Gmail, what you “like”—it’s all being assembled into detailed profiles, and sold off to companies seeking to extract your money. Your smartphone’s GPS keeps track of your comings and goings; in a bar, in a “secret” meeting, and even in Vegas, someone else’s smartphone may be making a painfully accurate record of what you say and do. And soon, TV news operations and police will begin legally deploying drones for a high-resolution peek at your neighborhood. As Scott McNealy, a Silicon Valley CEO, told us some time ago, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” So even if you’re no royal, you might want to keep your bikini fully fastened at all times.

William Falk

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