January 17th, 2010
A couple of thoughtful reactions to recent comments from Facebook and Google bosses about privacy.
Nicholas Carr on Other people's privacy:
Reading through these wealthy, powerful people's glib statements on privacy, one begins to suspect that what they're really talking about is other people's privacy, not their own. If you exist within a personal Green Zone of private jets, fenced off hideaways, and firewalls maintained by the country's best law firms and PR agencies, it's hardly a surprise that you'd eventually come to see privacy more as a privilege than a right. And if your company happens to make its money by mining personal data, well, that's all the more reason to convince yourself that other people's privacy may not be so important.
danah boyd on privacy norms:
Public-ness has always been a privilege. For a long time, only a few chosen few got to be public figures. Now we've changed the equation and anyone can theoretically be public, can theoretically be seen by millions. So it mustn't be a privilege anymore, eh? Not quite. There are still huge social costs to being public, social costs that geeks in Silicon Valley don't have to account for. Not everyone gets to show up to work whenever they feel like it wearing whatever they'd like and expect a phatty paycheck. Not everyone has the opportunity to be whoever they want in public and demand that everyone else just cope. I know there are lots of folks out there who think that we should force everyone into the public so that we can create a culture where that IS the norm. Not only do I think that this is unreasonable, but I don't think that this is truly what we want. The same Silicon Valley tycoons who want to push everyone into the public don't want their kids to know that their teachers are sexual beings, even when their sexuality is as vanilla as it gets. Should we even begin to talk about the marginalized populations out there?
The comment thread on the latter post is excellent, with Ed Borasky making the key point, addressing the notion that we're being invited to pay for these 'free' services with information about ourselves:
It's up to us as consumers to actively examine the "value" we are getting in every such transaction, regardless of how difficult the "services" make that and how tempting their offers of "free" stuff and "discounts" are.
Easier said than done, to be sure, but essential if we're not to sleepwalk into a 'semi-transparent society'.