House Bill Wants to Protect Internet Privacy from Employers' Snooping. What Privacy?

The Texas House is about to pass a bill that would bar employers from forcing employees and job applicants to cough up their social media passwords. Proponents here and around the country claim social media should be protected under the Fourth Amendment.

Last time I checked, the Fourth Amendment talked about the right of the people "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." I don't recall anything in the Constitution that protects people who walk out the front door with no clothes on from having the neighbors look at their pee-pees.

Privacy in social media? Privacy anywhere on the Internet? We do remember, I hope, that only eight months ago the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a four-star general and war hero, cratered his own career when he got caught trying to carry on a secret love affair on the Internet.

He went to some lengths. He didn't put it on his Facebook page. David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell employed the same tricks and workarounds that terrorists, organized criminals and 14-year-old runaways use to keep their messages secret. Guess what? Those tricks don't work.

Nothing on the Internet will ever be private. The biggest mistake any of us can make in using the Internet is thinking otherwise, then allowing that mistaken sense of security to trick us into exposure.

Look. I applaud Representative Helen Giddings, Democrat of Dallas, for sponsoring the bill in Austin now. I guess it's always a good thing to put some small fear of God in the hearts of corporate bullies. But here's the danger: It might give somebody the crazy idea that anything they write on an Internet-connected computer is ever securely private.

That's just bullshit. It's a scam. Every single time we commit words to the Internet, we are walking out the front door offering ourselves up to the big wide world. The Internet is always the front stoop, and people out there are always going to notice if you're naked. And social media! That's the worst. People actually look at that stuff, as opposed to most of what goes up.

Facebook and other social media are so fundamentally exposed and unprivate, laws purporting to make them private fly in the face of human nature itself. It's like passing a law saying, "No looking at people's pee-pees if they walk out of the house buck naked." Not that anyone in my neighborhood would want to look -- run the other direction and gouge out their eyes, more likely -- but that's a whole 'nother issue.

I heard recently of a married couple carrying out a painful domestic dispute on their Facebook pages, with friends and acquaintances chiming in to offer support and criticism. That's a choice. It's an important choice. It's so important, the more I think about it, it may be the beginning of a whole new form of civilization, which would necessarily entail the end of the one I'm more familiar with. Hey, it's a free country ... for better or for worse.

But the idea that Facebook can ever be even remotely private: That's just some crap Facebook wants you to believe so they can sell you more Facebook. It's a lie and a trick. No law will make it otherwise.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze