Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Privacy: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

We seem to be in the midst of a number of discussions whose outcomes will have critical impacts on how the web develops over the next few years. Key amongst these is whether privacy is dead.

I really believe the reverse is true. Many of the social media companies have tried to suggest that privacy is dead, largely because it makes their lives much more simple. If the assumption of complete openness is prevalent then they have significantly fewer issues with permissions, sign-ons and a whole array of user management functions.

The uproar that has greeted each 'slip' in privacy controls indicates that we are no more tolerant of them than ever we were before. Facebook, Google and a number of other social media brands have all had stinging rebukes from their customers when they’ve tried to follow through the 'privacy is dead' propaganda with functional software. Although it is important to differentiate between choosing to publish openly and being forced to be open. The tolerance towards what we choose to publish is certainly changing towards openness – but in this I think choice itself is crucial. Our friends may hear a great deal more about our lives (lucky them!) but strangers will, by our choice hear less.

Zuckerberg’s famous pronouncement that ‘privacy is dead’ has been roundly condemned and Facebook has retreated significantly on several fronts. I also believe that we are coming out of an innocent age. People were broadly unaware of the wider impact of their personal revelations and the long term effect public indiscretions might have. This is less and less true and the growing awareness of the potential impact will, I’m sure, regenerate a more privacy aware online population.

I think one of the significant memes of the next few years will be that of personalisation (more about this in a future blog) – and a significant element of that personalisation will be the choice of what we publish to whom. ID theft, career protection and a general desire not to be completely unwrapped n open are all distinct and growing conversations at present.

Privacy will rise :)

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