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I know big technology companies keep track of our every move online, but what about privacy among family members and friends online?

I answered this question a couple of years ago with a caution to perhaps not share so much online—even with family and friends. I think I thought then that privacy is an unalienable right and it was my job to remind you all of this fact.

Recently, though, I heard an interesting story on the This American Life podcast that made me think that perhaps what appear to be breaches of privacy might be something else entirely.

As I recall it, the true story went something like this: a numbers-guy father asked each of his adult children to email him their GPS coordinates every night (their work required them to travel quite a bit). He would take these coordinates from all but one son who refused to play along, put them into a spreadsheet, average the coordinates, and report back to his children the specific location at the average coordinates. That’s it. The resulting location had no meaning or purpose.

But as the interview with the father and children continued, it was obvious the means were unrelated to the end. Like a loved one’s “Call me when you get there,” this dad wanted to know his children were OK and to fix in his mind a physical location where they might be. And in return, when he replied with the random location, he reminded them that he was paying attention. It was an act of love—perhaps a roundabout way of expressing that love, but love nonetheless.

So maybe when we share where we are via an app like Snapchat, we’re letting the people who love us know that we’re OK and where we were three hours ago—not quite a hug, but a mutual expression of love nonetheless.


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