Alex Sirota on “Your privacy is an illusion.”

Read Capitan Kirk, “Your privacy is an illusion.” on Alex Sirota’s NewPath blog A Path to Success.

Alex raises some important questions. My thoughts are that there is an opportunity for innovation here, but also a collective action problem.
On one hand, I think that the new web is about transparent identity, which requires a certain amount of disclosure and mutual sharing of info. But we don’t have the standards and the trusted intermediaries we need. We also haven’t established clear principals that I own my data and that value derived from it should somehow flow back to me; nor the mechanisms to make that principal a reality.

So is the solution a technical one, matter of personal choice and education or regulatory? I don’t know, but it is an interesting and increasingly important problem area in need of new ideas.

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3 thoughts on “Alex Sirota on “Your privacy is an illusion.””

  1. Mark,

    Thanks for continuing the conversation. I think the issue stems from a central premise that we all want to be popular in some way — and online capabilities in a Web 2.0 world allow for that more seamlessly. We are given the appearance of popularity and we all can literally compare ourselves against each other. It’s not new really to want to be popular, but now you can prove just how popular you are or at least appear to be.

    Thing is — popularity breeds contempt and consequences. So once you get your fame online you have to be ok with your life being more and more of an open book.

    So, the implicit agreement we are all making and it appears business models of Web 2.0 companies are banking on is that everyone wants to be famous and is willing to give up part of their privacy for that purpose.

    The “fame” that you will receive is your compensation for sharing more and more about yourself. Not sure if we all recognize this openly, or if that compensation can be quantified. And to add to this, the Terms of Services we all agree to probably have spelled out the effect of “You don’t own the information you provide on this site.”

  2. I think it is reasonable to see that the social web replicates both the positive and negative aspects of society in meatspace. Popularity and fame have always been highly valued as levers to wealth, influence, power and sex. Social systems are not egalitarian.

    Web 2.0 offers new tools to propagate personal fame. In a positive sense, I like to think of it as “reputational authority”. My social reputation is freely given in a marketplace by an audience in a social context. Members of the audience confer their own reputational authority onto the recipient.

    In order to enter this marketplace, one needs a coherent online identity which requires personal disclosure. This is a difficult tradeoff for those who value privacy above the value of reputation, popularity, fame or infamy. But it remains a personal choice.

    None of this takes away from the appropriate consideration of privacy concerns and the potential for abuse of personal information. I think that appropriate safeguards lie in enabling users to make more informed choices and in ensuring that existing legal/regulatory frameworks provide sufficient teeth against abuse.

  3. The issue really is who is in control of the information. In Canada, we at least have pipeda… but its not consumer friendly. It mandates that a company must disclose what personal info they have about you, and who it has been shared with, but that they may bill you for the effort. If you have a particularily annoying company, like a bank, you’ll find that they will bill you extensive amounts of money that are designed to make it prohibitive for a consumer to find out how their information is being used.

    Beyond that, companies operating in Canada via the internet from the US, but that have a significant Canadian presence (guess who) have no such requirement to comply with our privacy legislation.

    A start would be to require any company with information about Canadians, where that information is provided _from_ Canada, to comply with our privacy legislation. We already have dozens of similar place-of-sale rules in place governing the tax code, why not privacy?

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