Last year the media was abuzz as people counted down the days to May 21. Harold Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster, had gained notoriety for his prediction that not only the Rapture was coming, but that he had nailed down the exact date. Commentators on TV, in newspapers, on the radio and on the Internet were all watching with a mixture of skepticism and anticipation to see whether this would indeed be the advent of the End of Days or whether Camping would be proven an undeniable fraud.
It is no wonder the extreme privacy groups keep making these claims, since they keep getting the attention they crave. Let’s face it—this type of fear-mongering helps get them quoted in the media and raise money. As with Camping, who had made similar failed predictions before, many privacy advocates are no stranger to crying wolf. Yet sadly, in both cases, many people fail to heed the lessons of the past and keep falling for the same con again and again. After Camping’s predictions failed to come true he went into seclusion before eventually admitting to the media that he was “flabbergasted” that the Rapture did not occur. He revised his prediction to October 21, 2011, but this prediction also failed. Now he has more or less stayed out of the public eye.
In the end, these groups are damaging their own cause by taking offense at every change in policy or practice by companies who are generally building great products and services for consumers that make everyone better off. Privacy is an important issue and it is trivialized by these false claims. Yes, there are some bad actors out there, but they are the exception, not the rule, and we should keep that in mind when creating privacy regulations or “rights.”
These are no End of Days for the Internet. The Internet will continue on as it always has and users will not suffer massive privacy harms from this policy change. While these latest claims about Google may not go up there in the history books with other failed claims such as “The Earth is flat,” we should remember that hoaxes should be exposed and those who peddle them should be viewed with a little more skepticism the next time they come selling something new.