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Three Random Privacy Stories…after Father’s Day

Father’s Day weekend has come and gone. Being with friends and family the discussion turned to memories, the future, and privacy (thanks NSA). I wanted to share three of the more entertaining and interesting discussions with you. To quote Jack Webb, “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

What did you do at school today?

I was talking to a father who happens to be software developer when his teenage daughters came up to us. The father asked them what they had been doing causing the daughters to complain that they he was always asking “what are you doing?”, “who are you talking to?”, or “what did you do in school today?”. “Mr. Siegel”. they asked, “isn’t he invading our privacy?”

Their father jumped in to respond promising he’d stop. In fact to apologize he would buy them Google Glasses when they become commercially available. The girls were excited; no more prying and they would be the getting the latest technology too. “Sure”, the father joked, “I’ll just write an app to allow me to turn on the camera to see what you’re doing though your eyes!”

What comes first, the baby name or the email account? 

I spoke with one couple who are expecting their first child. The baby, a boy, is due any minute. “Have you picked out a name?” I asked. “We have a few. Now we need to go to GMail to see which email accounts are available to match the names. Then we will decide which name to use.”

Welcome to the world John Fifty-seven Smith. (Just kidding)

When transparency hurts

At a recent family gathering a young genealogist unveiled her family tree, the work of over one year. Through interviewing family members, researching on-line sites, and employing researchers in the family’s homeland, the tree went back five generations included lost family members, lost facts, and many family stories. The young genealogist was transparent about everything she discovered, publishing a small report containing all the facts and all the stories. She distributed the report as people arrived.

After everyone arrived the genealogist, with a huge grin on her face, walked into the room where everyone had gathered. Her “well, what do you think?” was met with silence and glares. Cousin John didn’t know he was adopted. The secret about why great, great Aunt Kathrine left her husband in Hungary was now out. A miscarriage that was long forgotten was now painfully remembered. Was the root ancestor five generations back really a bigamist?

“I don’t understand why you are all so upset” the genealogist said. “It is all public information.”  Her grandfather explained that not everyone knows everything that is public, nor should we help them remember.