Virginia Heffernan, one of my favorite writers in the New York Times and on digital and pop culture issues, has a succinct and vivid analysis of the growing cultural awakening about privacy and email. It’s not that a lot of us — including her I’m sure — haven’t known this for a long time. If the 1’s and 0’s of digital media allow us to store and send information in multiple forms, at lightning speeds, and over vast differences, they also allow for multiple was of finding and decoding that same information. What’s changing, according to Heffernan, is the growing awareness in the culture at large of the potential public nature of something as ubiquitous as email. As she writes:
It’s the rare Web-user who’d willingly submit his own e-mail archive to prosecutorial scrutiny. LDL (“Let’s Discuss Live”), for those who have the option, is an extremely good idea. Nearly everyone needs some form of communication that’s not searchable, archivable, forwardable, discoverable and permanent.
It’s not a moment to be nostalgic for the days before email, but it is another notable moment of cultural change in how we perceive our digital lives. As more people begin to have a visceral sense of the lack of security, she notes that more and more people are reverting to that unencrypted, but familiar way of passing intimate information — in director, embodied, conversation.