Chris Huston mug

Chris Huston

I know this will sound quaint — as quaint as the days of poodle skirts and glass milk bottles.

But believe it or not, kids, once there was a time when people actually valued their privacy.

Admittedly, it was about 50 years ago, back when no one could track your local calls from the rotary-dial phone mounted on the kitchen wall. And even though nearly everyone was honest, most people just felt queasy about the government (or anyone) knowing where they were all the time, and what they were watching in the privacy of their home, and what they were buying in the stores. Even if they weren’t doing anything wrong.

I know, crazy. Right?

But as ridiculous as it sounds today, people like your grandma and grandpa just liked the idea of not having everyone else know their business.

Today, the whole concept of privacy is pretty laughable. We claim to be upset each time we learn that Facebook is cutting deals for millions of dollars to sell your preferences and priorities to other companies. But no one is upset enough to — oh, I don’t know — stop using Facebook or anything.

The simple fact is that no one took away our privacy. We gave it away in the name of convenience. And we did it with breathtaking speed.

It’s true that after the 2014 blowup between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica consumers demanded “action.”

And we got it. Now we have to — gasp — click the box acknowledging our site uses cookies to track our every move, and, even more annoyingly, we must now click the box to certify that we’ve read the company’s 14-page single-spaced privacy policy before we get to see all those cute sweaters and guy-gadgets.

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that you’ve never, not once, read one of those privacy policies, although you always click that you have. I’m also guessing that you’ve never said, “You know, I’m not going to visit this site anymore because I’m concerned about their use of cookies to enhance my consuming experience.”

If I’m wrong, leave me a note on my Facebook page. It’s listed at the bottom.

So why this long rant? Only because of a news story I recently heard about the government wanting Apple to enable them to get inside the cellphone of Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani of the Saudi Royal Air Force, who killed three airmen and injured eight others at the Naval Air Station Pensacola last month.

These days, Apple routinely responds to court orders involving data residing in its servers, such as its iCloud, but, annoyingly, Apple has built its iPhones in a way that not even the company can break into an encrypted phone once it’s used by a consumer.

But Attorney General William Barr figures that all those Apple geniuses could break into the phone if they really wanted to, and he’s trying to get them to want to by way of a federal search warrant.

At this writing, the government’s action against Apple is still pending. Who will win? I have no idea. Apple stuck to their guns in 2016 when it wouldn’t open the phones of the assailants in the attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people. So maybe they’ll hang tough.

But the question of whether Apple is on the moral high ground in this situation is becoming fuzzier with each passing year. We’ve made it clear that shopping convenience means a lot more to us these days than some silly antiquated notion about keeping other people’s noses out of our business. And if we don’t care about our privacy, why should Apple? And besides, it’s just the government. What could possibly go wrong?

Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in southern Idaho. Connect with Chris on both Facebook and Instagram at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.