Wednesday, January 9, 2008

[Online Privacy] Good Truthout Article On Facebook and Privacy

Truthout is one of those sites, like Common Dreams, that I have had to stop reading for fear that it will take over my life.

That said, a friend passed this article on and it's a good one ('good', of course, referencing quality - it's sure not a synonym with 'happy' in this case).

The gist of the article is that it takes Facebook as an example of the changing views and technological limits around privacy and wonders if anyone under 25 gives a shit. For example:

Growing up online, young people assume their inner circle knows their business. The "new privacy" is about controlling how many people know - not if anyone knows. "Information is not private because no one knows it; it is private because the knowing is limited and controlled," argues Danah Boyd...

There's Danah Boyd again!

Oh, and I wonder if what Boyd is talking about is a difference of degree or a difference in kind? Or if it doesn't matter, since the difference of degree is so great it might as well be a difference in kind....

And this:

One study at the University of North Carolina, for example, found more than 60 percent of Facebook users posted their political views, relationship status, personal picture, interests and address. People also post a whopping 14 million personal photos every single day, making Facebook the top photo website in the country. Then users diligently label one another in these pictures, enabling visitors to see every photo anyone has ever posted of other people, regardless of their consent or knowledge. Even if users terminate their membership, pictures of them posted by others remain online. But users can't really quit, anyway.

We are cataloging reality instead of living it. Or, at least, our lives are getting progressively more boring even as they get progressively more catalogued, tracked and cross-referenced.

Is this the new bookworm, the newest way of mediating reality rather than face it? (And I mean that in the ever-so-slightly perjorative sense even having been one, more or less.) That's a scary thought.

One last bit:

Yet the same young people posting all this personal information and relinquishing their photos to corporate control still say they value privacy. A Carnegie Mellon study found that students on Facebook think privacy policy is a "highly important issue," ranking above terrorism, and many would be very concerned if a stranger knew their class schedule or could find out their political views five years from now. Of the students who expressed the highest possible concern about protecting their class schedule, however, 40 percent still posted it on Facebook, and 47 percent of those concerned about political views still provided them. The study concluded there was "little or no relation between participants' reported privacy attitudes and their likelihood of providing certain information."

Why would young people publicize the very information they want to keep private?

Critics argue that privacy does not matter to children who were raised in a wired celebrity culture that promises a niche audience for everyone. Why hide when you can perform? But even if young people are performing, many are clueless about the size of their audience. That's because the new generation is often proficient with technology it doesn't fully understand. The Carnegie Mellon study found that one-third of students don't realize that it is easy for nonstudents to access their Facebook profiles. And 30 percent of students did not even know they had an option to limit access to their profile.

Har..... we are so (as a friend of mine says) f*ckered.

1984 is turning out to be tame in comparison to staring the Authority in the face: It is us, uncaring.


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