domingo, 1 de abril de 2007

Who Cares About Privacy?

The lines between what is private and what isn’t are being blurred for individuals and companies alike. More young people are putting more personal information out in public on sites like Facebook and Myspace than any adult would ever think of and yet they are fine with it, along with their entirely different definition of privacy. Businesses also are being pushed to go naked for all to see. In the April issue of Wired magazine they have an article called The See-Through CEO, which says, “The Internet has inverted the social physics of information. Companies used to assume that details about their internal workings were valuable precisely because they were secret. If you were cagey about your plans, you had the upper hand; if you kept your next big idea to yourself, people couldn't steal it. Now, billion- dollar ideas come to CEOs who give them away; corporations that publicize their failings grow stronger. Power comes not from your Rolodex but from how many bloggers link to you - and everyone trembles before search engine rankings.” They told me in high school that the days of graduating from college and working for one company that will take care of you until you retire doesn’t exist anymore. To be successful you need to start marketing yourself like a business, having versatile skills and abilities to compete in an ever changing work field. Now the tables have turned as businesses start to market themselves more like people who post everything about themselves on sites like Facebook and Myspace. We are all living in public more and more everyday.
The other day me and my friend Matt signed up to live at an apartment complex together for the summer semester where there are six people per apartment. They sent us an email showing us the other roommates that we would be living with. Having random roommates assigned to live with you can be a little weird since you have no idea who they might turn out to be. So we decided to look them up on Facebook to see if they would be types that we would get along with. It was a little weird how easy it was to look up a stranger on Facebook and see everything about them willfully posted on the internet, including: where they’re from, their pictures, favorite movies, bands, friends, and what the last thing they posted on a friends page was. This got me thinking about why we willfully publish what would normally be private information on the internet for everyone to see. Maybe it is the side effect of everyone being obsessed with reality TV shows for so long that everyone wants to, and now thinks they can be a star. Whatever the explanation is it’s not going to change anytime soon.
In an article called, Say Everything, by Emily Nussbaum in New York Magazine, she says, “And after all, there is another way to look at this shift. Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.”
For a long time it seemed that people were very serious about having their lives be private. The Patriot Act and Spyware are two good examples. The Patriot Act was signed by President Bush on October 26, 2001 and was formed in response to the terrorist attacks against the United States. It dramatically expanded the authority of American law enforcers to investigate and prosecute the supporters of terrorism. People threw a fit about the Patriot Act because on March 9, 2007, the US Justice Department released an internal audit that found that the FBI had acted illegally in its use of the act to secretly obtain personal information about US citizens. Spyware is another example of the public’s fear of invasion of privacy. Spyware is computer software that collects personal information about users without their informed consent. The complaint about Spyware is that internet companies track your business on the internet so that they can modify their marketing tactics towards you to personalize them. People say these things are an invasion of privacy, but who cares about privacy anymore? Everyone wants to be spied on. Everyone is just loading up all their information about themselves anyway. There is so much information out there in the first place that I don’t have time to read it all. As far as I’m concerned Spyware can spy on me as much as it wants if it means figuring out what I’m most interested in so that it can sort out the crap that doesn’t concern me and give me all the recommended stuff that I will want to read.
Somehow it feels like all these networking sites are creating a false identity in everyone. I’m having a hard time figuring out what I think about it. It’s like everyone can now finally be a part of reality TV. The fact that people change their relationship status on Facebook for everyone to see as soon as they start going out with someone new is odd. As if they have a huge fan base that just can’t wait to see what their relationship status is. Too often pictures are taken at parties or events for the sake of making sure that everyone sees how cool you are on your Myspace page rather than serving as memories, like most pictures should. It’s dumb to do something just for the sake of taking a picture to make sure everyone knows about all the cool stuff you do. In essence, every young person in America has become, in the literal sense, a public figure. Everyone wants attention and wants to think that they have lots of fans but the truth is, as Dr. Phil puts it, “You would care a lot less about what people thought about you if you knew how little they did.”
No one is more confused about this whole thing that parents. They keep saying that this lack of privacy is dangerous because there are stalkers and perverts out there that can find you. But obviously kids don’t think so because it hasn’t deterred millions of them from doing it. In Say Everything once again, Emily Nussbaum says, “that’s pretty much the standard response I’ve gotten when I’ve spoken about this piece with anyone over 39: “But what about the perverts?” For teenagers, who have grown up laughing at porn pop-ups and the occasional instant message from a skeezy stranger, this is about as logical as the question “How can you move to New York? You’ll get mugged!”
The benefits are obvious for both the individual and the company. For the individual the public life is fun. It’s creative. It’s where their friends are. It’s theater, but it’s also community: In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with friends. For the company, getting people to talk about them is good for business because recommendations from peers works 100 percent better than recommendations from the company itself. Chris Anderson says in a blog, In Praise of Radical Transparency, “The small cost of some competitor getting early wind of a new feature is more than outweighed by the good will generated among customers by candid insights into product development.” And Jeff Jarvis says in his post, Radical’ transparency, “The point is that what you really want to do is open the windows on either side of your house and let the people standing around talk directly to each other, with or without you. You do your job, still, creating some stuff that people want to gather around. But then you enable them to share more. And now you have a new role — helping them.”
So I guess it’s time to get used to having no privacy. Because the truth is, we’re living in frontier country right now. We can take guesses at the future, but it’s hard to gauge the effects of a drug while you’re still taking it. Will this lack of privacy get worse or will it die out? What are the long term side effects to companies and individuals posting everything about themselves for everyone to see? Who knows? But until then, lets get naked.

3 comentarios:

Marc Jorgensen dijo...

Zach your articles are huge.

Erik dijo...

Zach, the information threat out there is real. I would never create a myspace page, and what the heck is Facebook? If you're just some joe schmoe that thinks you have nothing to lose, think again. You have an identity, credit, a lot of future that could get messed up. And that's not even touching on what the global threat is. I see this stuff a lot at work...but for reasons listed above, let's not talk about me......

Marc Jorgensen dijo...

law schools have a type of IM program where many students just talk trash about other students. Sometimes resulting in companies declining job offers. Crazy world