Privacy: The Last Great American Holdout

By Alisha Bennett

If you’re plugged into social media, no doubt you’ve been made aware of Amazon Prime’s latest “convenience” called Amazon Key. Having already given us 24/7 in-home access to such debatably intrusive gadgetry as the slightly creepy “Alexa” (the voice activated virtual assistant), Amazon Key allows delivery of your items inside your home, with optional video viewing for peace of mind, and ostensibly to avoid theft of items sitting forlornly on the front porch thereby appearing fair game to thieves.

This article sums up the issue as well as other delivery options that have recently made an appearance such as drone delivery. What I find interesting in the article is the graph depicting the poll of Americans comfortable with in-home delivery. It’s not hard to miss the obvious trend of age correlating to comfort. Which begs the question: has the consistent incursion into our private lives by technology, databases, regulations, etc., rendered each successive generation a little more at ease with the loss of privacy? For those on the younger end of the age spectrum, life has always been digitized and upload-able at a finger swipe without much thought given to the implications of data collection, surveillance and the utmost details of our life being public knowledge (or saved on a backup drive somewhere). Everyone’s business is now everyone’s business. It’s the age old conundrum of convenience versus freedom from interference.

This strikes me because I often hear from clients that beyond the flexibility of the Check Book IRA, they are astounded by the privacy it affords. As long as they stay within the guidelines, they can use their discretion to make their own investment decisions. Beyond the end-of-year valuation report totaling the sum of their investment value, their investments are private. Sadly, that seems to be a bit of a shock to many as they are used to the carousel of third-parties who have their hand in the retirement cookie jar and their two cents (charged at a vastly higher rate) on every decision. The age of the “investment advisor” has led to the constant scrutiny of the funds that you worked hard to put away. While it seems a bit inevitable that the vast technological possibilities will continue to war with our instinctive human desire to retain a life free of intrusive observation, my hope is that we will find a balance.

In the meantime, when my order is delivered today, I wonder if I can ask Amazon to start the dishwasher for me…

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    1 Comment

    1. Dan Ripley

      Your comments are well worth considering. There seems to be a mentality that, “It must be okay, or so many people wouldn’t be doing it.” Maybe the Equifax breach will make some wonder, but it’s amazing how quickly such things get forgotten, and we continue on putting our private information at risk, with possibly bad results.