Think of the worst thing you've ever intentionally done. Maybe you stole something, hit your spouse or seduced a teenager.
Now imagine that the entire rest of the world can watch a video clip of your embarrassing behavior any time they want.
Worse, news stations will continue running the clip until everyone on Earth has seen it, including people who haven't been born yet.
Unless there's something really wrong with a person, this is not a place anyone would want be. And yet it's happening with increasing frequency.
Someone always seems to be watching now. If it isn't the NSA recording pillow talk between a foreign dignitary and a monkey, it's some grubby creep hiding a peephole camera in a public restroom.
My introduction to this violation of privacy occurred while camping. Stargazing from a raft in the middle of a lake, our Scoutmaster Ray pointed into the night sky and told us that Russians could see us from satellites, possibly at that very moment.
According to Ray, the Russians had cameras that could see in the dark and were powerful enough to take pictures of the tags on our underwear.
I did not receive this news well. It was two days before I could muster the nerve to use the outhouse. What if Russians had cameras that could see through a knothole? What if they sent the movie to my school?
Years later, I learned that the Russians did not have superspy technology at the time and probably wouldn't have wasted it on a Scout troop if they had.
Fast forward to present day. Not only is the monitoring technology here, it's in the hands of the most irresponsible and voyeuristic group of people on Earth: everybody.
It's bad enough when we're victims of government and pervert monitoring, but it's astonishing how many of us record our most personal and/or stupid behavior and it ends up all over the Internet.
Just suppose you're the sort of person who would shoot the Easter bunny out of a cannon. It's probably not a good idea to videotape it, or allow friends to videotape it. You just don't know where it will end up.
Note: This is particularly true if you post it online yourself and tell everyone where to find it.
Every day it seems there's a YouTube clip of somebody doing something they not only wish they hadn't done but also hadn't gotten on video.
We expect this behavior from celebrities. They're in the business of playing to an audience, sometimes to the point where they can't tell it's too late.
If a rap star throws a live pig off a Marriott, no one is surprised it got recorded and posted. He'll be all kinds of sorry the next day and probably weather the public outcry.
The same isn't true of people who actually value their privacy. Get yourself videotaped doing something really stupid and you might not be able to apologize your way out of it to neighbors, friends and family.
It isn't just video or photos. There are other ways of being exposed to unwanted public scrutiny. It's probably not a good idea to spill your deepest desires into an email, or onto some social media site you think is private but isn't.
Email your observations on the new girl in the office and you could end up being the one under observation. Those things are forever somewhere.
Privacy is a valuable thing. We should all be concerned about having it taken from us and a lot more careful about giving it away.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.