Ever wanted to disappear without a trace? Well, stop what you’re doing right now. The unsolved murder of Philip Welsh, a 65-year-old man from Silver Spring, Maryland, sheds some light on the power of having an online presence in contemporary society. Welsh’s murder remains unsolved nearly a year later partly due to his complete avoidance of modern technology. Welsh had no cellphone, no internet, no tv and certainly no Twitter or Facebook account. The authorities tasked with solving Welsh’s murder explained that electronic footprints are the first pieces of evidence they search for in a murder case and usually the most useful. Devoid of such evidence, the case is at a stand still.
Why hasn’t this case made it to the front pages? I took a peek at the front page of CNN and many of the articles involved international affairs, celebrities and politics. Perhaps the name Philip Welsh is not so glamorous. However, the implications of his story should be heard loud and clear: your life is online and everyone can see it. This story reminds me of my post from last week. Unless you want to give up all of your cherished online interactions, your life is unequivocally visible. The police and anyone with enough dedication and hacking skills can access your sensitive information.
What should we do about this dilemma? Our contemporary lifestyle is inextricably tied to the internet, but we cannot simultaneously maintain basic privacy. Do we even care that our lives are no longer private? I would argue that we don’t. 284 million people are using a site where they share their every move (i.e., Twitter) and 1.23 billion people use a site that rests on the basic premise of sharing your identity (i.e., Facebook). The trend is not going away. Just the other day I was asked by my internet company to provide my social security number. My options were either to provide the information on the spot, or fill out a form that cost $25 and required jumping through a bunch of hoops. I gave them my social. Privacy is dead. Don’t worry, though, if you ever get murdered at least your killer will have a better chance at getting caught.