How do we make sure our private information stays private when the internet connects us so intimately with one another? How do we safely engage with community while avoiding identity thieves? When John Donne 17th century English metaphysical poet wrote, No man is an island, he was arguing for a sense of spiritual unity among mankind, a unity that did not anticipate the Borg-like potential of the internet:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Donne s vision for a more spiritually connected human race never fulfilled itself. And contemporary man feels more and more spiritual isolation. But Donne s declaration became true in a sense that he could not have anticipated. Nowadays, no man is an island because the internet connects humanity in a fashion similar to the way that dendrites conduct impulses among nerve cells. However, the illusion that the internet is fostering awareness of the loving unity of all earthlings is dangerous. Pre-internet privacy boundaries were more physical than virtual. If you wanted to snoop on someone, you could physically follow them, intercept their mail letters, look through their trash or peep through their windows. Nowadays, if you want to return to being a metaphorical island in an ocean that sweeps away privacy, one of the important tools is common sense and another is privacy software.
Privacy software is equally restrictive against anyone who is trying to invade your virtual privacy. If a hacker is trying to snatch your credit card numbers and passwords, privacy software blocks the attempt by encrypting your eCommerce session as you order flowers online for your mother. If a legitimate business is trying to record which websites you visit so that it can pinpoint the most effective advertising to send you, privacy software hides your IP (Internet Protocol) address so that you can surf in anonymity. If your spouse attempts to search your computer to discover which sites you have visited or which files you have downloaded, privacy software ensures that your paths are swept clean of virtual breadcrumbs and footprints.
Modern sensibilities include an expectation of privacy that internet technology is compromising. Preserve your sacred space. After all, we are not the Borg those Star Trek organisms who connect to the hive mind to achieve perfection. With the internet and privacy software, you can build a fence around your island and still be safely connected to other people.