Posted on 20/Oct/2016
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It wont be long before we look back and laugh at the way we approached privacy in the happy days of the web.


If only I had a penny for every time I’ve heard this aphorism!

True, most typology studies out there as well as our own experiences verify that currently most of us act like the kids that rush to the table and grab the candy in the classic delayed gratification marshmallow experiment: convenience rules over our privacy concerns.

But nothing is written in stone about this. Given enough information and some time to digest it, even greedy kids learn. Just take a look at some other things we didn’t use to care about.


Airport security

Never had the pleasure of walking directly into a plane without a security check but from what I hear there was a time that this was how it worked. You would show up at the airport with ticket at hand. The check-in assistant would verify that your name is on the list and check your id. Then you would just walk past the security officer and go directly to the boarding gate. Simple as that.

Then came hijackers and ruined everything. Between 1968 and 1972, hijackers took over a commercial aircraft every other week, on average. So long with speedy boarding and farewell to smoking on planes 20 years later. If you want to get nostalgic, here you go:




Since we are in the topic of smoking and given that lots of privacy concerns are caused by personal data collection practices in online advertising I cannot avoid thinking of Betty and Don Draper with cigarettes at hand at work, in the car, or even at home with the kids.

To be honest I don’t have to go as far as the Mad Men heroes to draw examples. I am pretty, pretty, pretty sure I’ve seen some of this in real life.


Dangerous toys

Where do I start here? I could list some of my own but they are nowhere near as fun as some that I discovered with a quick search around the web. Things like:

– Glass blowing kit

– Lead casting kit

– Working electric power tools for kids

– The kerosine train

– Magic killer guns that impress, burn, or knock down your friends.

Power tools for junior













Pictures are louder than words. Just take a look at The 8 Most Wildly Irresponsible Vintage Toys. Last in this list is the “Atomic Energy Lab” which brings us to:


Recreational uses of radio active materials

I love micro-mechanics and there’s nothing more lovable about it than mechanical watches. There is a magic in listening to the ticking sound of a mechanical movement while observing the seconds hand sweep smoothly above the dial. You can even do it the dark because modern watches use super luminova to illuminate watch dial markings and hands.

But it was not always like that. Before super luminova watches used Tritium and before that … Radium.

Swiss Military Watch Commander











Radium watch hands under ultraviolet light














I am stretching dangerously beyond my field here but from what I gather, Tritium, a radio-active material, needs to be handled very carefully. Radium is downright dangerous. I mean “you are going to die” dangerous. Just read a bit about what happened to the “Radium Girls” who used to apply radium on watch dials in an assembly line in the ’20s.

Radium girls
Radium girls











But we are not done yet. Remember the title of the section is “Recreational uses of radio active materials”. Watch dials are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s more of a useful than a recreational thing to be able to read the time in the dark (with some exceptions). Could society stomach the dangers for workers? Who knows? It doesn’t really matter because there are these other uses, that were truly recreational (in the beginning at least) for which I hope the answer is pretty clear. Here goes the list:Here

– Radium chocolate
– Radium water
– Radium toothpaste
– Radium spa

Radium Schokolade
Radium Schokolade














Details and imagery at 9 Ways People Used Radium Before We Understood the Risks.

Anyhow, I can go on for hours on this, talk about car safety belts, car seat headrests, balconies, furniture design etc but I think where I am getting at is clear: Societies evolve.

It takes some time and some pain but they evolve. Especially in our time with the ease at which information spreads, they evolve fast. Mark my words, it wont be long before we look back and laugh at the way we approached privacy in the happy days of the web.















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