The problem with privacy

Privacy has been in the news a lot lately, courtesy of Facebook. I imagine that Facebook is probably used to this by now. Every time they change something, people threaten to leave. However, then they never do be because, lo and behold, all their friends are still on Facebook. Same thing as when you’re at a party and some weird stuff starts going down. If you don’t know anyone, you’ll probably leave. But if your friends are there, you’ll probably stick around.

But this time Facebook seems to have attracted the ire of the mainstream media. Maybe they just sensed a story and jumped on it. Or maybe it seems like there’s a lot of anger at it. Either way, privacy is becoming more and more illusory, and Facebook is just pushing it further down its natural path.

There’s two things that are contributing to this. First, the concept of privacy has always been a tenuous one. It didn’t exist really until we had large cities. And that was only because it became difficult to keep tabs on everyone because there were too many people. The second thing is that the internet naturally trends towards connectedness. Look at libraries and academia. Books and articles are all interconnected. Academics always have to cite articles to have any credibility. They build upon what’s already there.

When these two trends converge, we begin to see things becoming less private. It’s almost the internet’s natural state. As we become more connected, we will naturally lose privacy. But in reality, we’ve already lost privacy, we just don’t know it.

As online privacy erodes, oddly enough we each get the chance to focus more on our online presence. Created content has a high probability of showing up first on a Google search. Untag bad photos of yourself. Comment on articles relevant to your industry. Unlike in the old days when we couldn’t control privacy at all, today we have a whole set of tools to help people see better what we want them to see. It just depends on if you’re smart enough to realize it.

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