More Thoughts on Privacy

Posted in Social Media by diptoe on May 9, 2010

My thoughts stemming from the previous post:

In case you missed it, Facebook’s recent moves ignited a firestorm of controversy. Wired claims that Facebook’s gone rogue; Dan Yoder gave us Ten Reasons to Quit Facebook (and judging from the comments across the web, some have already done so); Tom Baekdal wrote that Facebook is dying, before clarifying that he is not quitting the site; Robert Scoble says its too late to regulate Facebook, loves the changes, and wishes it were more open; and Jeff Jarvis wrote a great post yesterday about *a* public versus *the* public.  You should read all of those. My comments are below.

1. Nothing posted online is safe anyways, but…

One argument I’ve heard repeated (or at least implied) is that nothing posted online is guaranteed to remain private. In one of the posts mentioned above, Scoble wrote that anything written in in an e-mail could end up in the N.Y. Times. Absolutely true. That nasty e-mail you sent your ex might end up being read by half the world when she forwards it to her whole address book and the thing goes viral. And if Sarah Palin’s e-mails aren’t safe from hackers, what makes you think yours are? Scoble’s solution? “If I don’t want you to read something,” says Scoble, “I don’t put it on a computer.” But here’s the thing: I post things that I am perfectly fine with and even want some or most people knowing… but not everyone. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Yes, I do have something to hide.

This is a big one. Openness advocates ask, “Why the privacy concern? What do you have to hide?” Well, that’s none of your darn business! But for example’s sake, I do have things that I would prefer to remain hidden – but not necessarily from everyone. I might post that I’m at Starbucks in a town an hour away from my home. I’m ok with my immediate friends knowing that. But I don’t want Joe Burglar from down the street knowing that he’s got an hour at my house all to himself to restock his Ebay store. Hopefully he’s not one of my Facebook friends (or on my “personal friends” list) or I’m screwed. And I might not want the whole world to know where I stand on the topics of money, politics, sex and religion.

3. Less privacy = better self-regulation.

Maybe less privacy could drive users to better self-regulation. Which I interpret as a good thing – I don’t want to see pictures of you on Lamebook, passed out on the floor with marker all over your face. But if self-regulation in the example above means not posting that I’m at Starbucks, I’ve essentially removed myself from the social conversation.

On the same note, a very good friend of mine joined Facebook specifically so that she could keep in contact with a few close friends. Now she is harangued on all sides by friend requests, and has to deal with the consequences of that. If she rejects them, people she otherwise had a good relationship with get hurt for not being added. But if she adds more friends, she has to self-regulate her posts and the conversation gets less intimate. Sure there are tools to help her, but she doesn’t have time to try and figure out friend lists and complicated levels of privacy settings. Now she just wants to get rid of her account altogether. It seems there should be a happier (and easy-to-implement) middle ground somewhere.

4. The New Paradigm.

In the end, all of this hullabaloo over privacy will probably die down. I’ll grudgingly get used to the new privacy rules – heck, I might even one day be able to see all the websites my friends visit, whether they Liked them or not. Hopefully though, the-powers-that-be will find a way to respect our privacy and still create a sense of transparency and openness. My only question is… if openness is the new paradigm, what does that mean for us? What do we do and where do we go next? Any thoughts?


2 Responses

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  1. Lee Aase said, on May 18, 2010 at 11:43 am

    It’s great to see that you’re making use of the SMUG curriculum. I look forward to seeing what you can accomplish.

  2. diptoe said, on May 18, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Thank you Lee! Your blog (and others like it) goes a long way in helping the process along.

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