Not-so-Private Lives

As I’ve watched the media footage these past few days of respected journalists practically climbing over each other bodily to get the “untold” story of the Chilean miners, I am struck by the hypocrisy of it all. We’ve created an environment where it’s perfectly alright to encourage others to invade the privacy of those we’re interested in and yet we go crazy railing against potential privacy invasions ourselves every time we hear of a company collecting data on us.

We’re not talking about celebrities here—these are blue collar working people who survived an incredible ordeal. It’s a great human interest story and it’s natural to be curious. I know I am. And I was heartened to hear that they’d decided to share potential proceeds equally. Now it appears that with all the money being thrown at these men, this agreement may not be enforced. That would be a shame but let’s face it, we all expected it…the real story will be if they can keep their word and all benefit equally.

There certainly aren’t many role models for them. Everywhere you look there’s another story of someone selling information, access, and secrets as they try to capitalize on our seemingly insatiable desire to get the “inside” scoop.

Businesses respond to market needs. The media wouldn’t be acting the way they have been with the miners if there wasn’t an audience for their work. And you can’t blame the men for putting themselves first when ungodly amounts of money are being waved in their faces–particularly when the owners of the mine have begun bankruptcy proceedings. They have to do what’s right for them and their families.

But if we’re going to encourage this type of marketplace, one that will seemingly go to any length to get the stories we’re interested in, how can we in good conscience be so outraged when companies develop technologies to uncover information about our media habits, our buying behavior and interests that will allow them to target their offerings more specifically? Can we really blame businesses when we’ve created such a market for this type of information?

Aren’t we at the very root of the problem?

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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