Privacy, publicness & penises

Here is video of the talk I gave at re:publica 2010 in Berlin on The German Paradox: Privacy, publicness, and penises. (Don’t be frightened by the first moments in German; it’s just an introduction and a joke — with fire extinguisher — about how I had threatened to Hendrix my iPad on the stage in Berlin.)

My subject is all the more relevant given this week’s letter to Google with privacy czars in a handful of countries trying to argue that Google Streetview taking pictures in public violates privacy. In my talk, I argue that what is public belongs to us, the public, and efforts to reduce what’s public steals from us. Journalists should be particularly protective of what is public; so should we all. (The czars also argued, amazingly, that Google shouldn’t release betas. They come, you see, from an old world of centralized control — and the myth that processes can be turned into products, finished, complete, even perfect — instead of the new world of openness and collaboration.)

With so much discussion — even panic — about privacy today, I fear that we risk losing the benefits of publicness, of the connections enabled by the internet and our interconnected world. If we shift to a default of private, we lose much and I argue that we should weigh that choice when we decide what to put behind a wall — and there are too many walls being build today. But we’re not discussing the benefits of the public vs. the private. I want to spark that discussion.

I use Germany as a laboratory and illustration of the topic not only because I was there but because they have something nearing a cultural obsession on the topic of privacy. What’s true there is true elsewhere, including the U.S., though only to a different level. I also only skim the surface of the topic in this video; there is so much more to talk about: how publicness benefits the ways we can and now must do business; how it affects government; how it alters education; how it changes our relationships; how young people bring a new culture that cuts across all national boundaries and expectations; how it multiplies our knowledge; how it creates value; how it leads to a new set of ethics; and much more. But that’s for another time and medium.

In the talk, this all leads up to the Bill of Rights in Cyberspace, which is really about openness and protecting that.

At the end of my time on stage, I invited the room to continue the discussion next door in the sauna, Four guys did show up. Here’s the proof.

If you prefer, here is are my slides with the audio of my talk and discussion, thanks to Slideshare:

The coverage of the talk in German media amazes me. It made the front page of three papers and coverage in more and a prime-time TV show plus radio. Coverage included Welt Kompakt and Welt, Welt again, Berliner Zeitung, Berliner Zeitung again, Zeit Online covers the talk, then Zeit feels compelled to respond and start a reader-debate, Spiegel, the German press agency, the Evangelical News Service, Berliner Morgenpost, Berliner Morgenpost again, Bild, Taggespiegel, taz, taz again, taz again, Berliner Kurier, Berliner Kurier again, 3sat, Süddeutschezeitung, BZ, Frankfurter Rundschau, business magazine WirtschaftWoche, L’Express in France, ORF TV in Austria, and more than one blog. And today add der Freitag. A week later comes an interview in the Berliner Zeitung.

Coverage of my re:publica talk

And here is a slice of an illustration of my talk by AnnalenaSchiller.com (who tweeted beforehand about having to draw a penis for the first time in her talk-illustration career) that appeared in the German paper Der Freitag this week:

derFrietag re re:publica

Yet more: Here’s an interview with dctp.tv in Berlin that summarizes my views:

: LATER: Penelope Trunk, who lives in public, writes: ” The value of your privacy is very little in the age of transparency and authenticity. Privacy is almost always a way of hiding things that don’t need hiding.. . . And transparency trumps privacy every time. So put your ideas in social media, not email.”

: AND: I just got a message on Facebook from the woman I talk about in the Sauna in Davos, the one I said was an American freaked by the mixed, nude crowd of sweaty Russians and me. She thought it was quite funny … especially because she’s French (living in America).

  • Siva Vaidhyanathan

    Jeff,

    I think your initial error is to assume that “privacy” is always the opposite of “publicity.” We only say “privacy” because we don’t have the right word. We are talking about autonomy — the right to manage what people know about us. Street View is such an obvious violation of that principle. That’s why people around the world are so angry about it. It’s not a paradox. Privacy has nothing to do with private parts.

    The point of European privacy law is that corporations cannot track our movements without permission. Journalism and private photography is exempt. So your concern about both is misplaced.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Siva,
      We disagree. Privacy is overlaid onto the public square and what we do there and in that I find danger for an open, democratic society, let alone journalism.

  • http://spreeblick.com johnny

    Jeff, thanks so much for being there, it was a blast!

    (We’ll discuss the sauna metaphor and what I think is misleading about it another time … ;))

  • Jimbo

    First, I agree with Siva Vaidhyanathan an all accounts. I have a right to keep some things out of the public domain. No one should be allowed to gain any data of me that I do authorize. Exemptions are journalism (as it is protected by the constitution) and anything to do with law enforcement (trials and verdicts are held and spoken in the name of the people, so they should be public on most accounts, too).

    Second, I want to talk about the “we” in “how publicness benefits the ways we can and now must do business”. Who are “we”? Business? Consumers? I think that we need to be aware that there are many differenct actors who are all pursuing different or even opposing goals. “We” gain nothing off publicness, unless we define who “we” are.

    I do not have the answer right away, but since Jeff wants to spark a discussion, here is one spark for a start ;-)

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      But when you are in the public, what you do is public, and that is owned by the public, not you. Without that doctrine, we will have no end of private entities — individuals, companies, governments — try to control and limit the public. Danger lies there for it provides a cloak for tyrannies. That is one reason, among many, for protecting the public as public.

      • http://www.afge.org DaveC

        Am I “in public” when I complete a business transaction with a corporation? Should the corporation have the right to profile me without my consent and share that information with 3rd parties? What if those 3rd parties have an adversarial or competitive relationship with me? Shouldn’t I have some say in how information about me is used? Shouldn’t the corporation collecting a profile on me have some obligation to provide me access to that information and tell me who they provide it to? Not that I have answers, but for many of us these are troubling questions.

        Check out this post on some of the privacy issues with Facebook . We are way past the viability of “default to private” economy and policy. To me though, it would be an improvement in public policy to create some meaningful privacy and consumer rights for the public.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          I agree and that’s why I emphasize the need for control of our data, which includes this.

        • http://projectheresy.com Tim

          But, if a photo of me, taken in public, is data, and, bearing in mind that you said I don’t really have a choice over whether I can control you taking this, then, your comment above really is null, isn’t it?

          Once you have taken it, short of me taking your memory stick (this happens when celebs get papped), then, I don’t have control any longer, do I?

          Like I said, slippery slope.

          I think this should be publicacy by exception.
          1) You can’t take a photo of me, without my permission, or, if you do, and I ask you to desist and delete, you legally must do so.
          2) Facebook etc (Buzz) ought to be opt out of privacy.

          I realise this is anathema to corporate/commercial considerations, but we need to be rational about this.

          Great discussion.
          -tim

        • Gary Owens

          The thing is, photographing what one sees is free speech, just as describing something in detail or sketching a public protest would be.

          Governments can say you cannot photograph riots and police brutality or politicians taking bribes.

          Governments can say you must not photograph public squares because you might plan a riot with the information.

          It is a slippery slope to take away the basic right to photograph things and publish them.

          That includes drunk women stripping in public in New Orleans or drunk hooligans at a soccer game.

          I think it would be nice to be able to have a for-profit website take down a photo a blackmailer posted of a naked person taken in private.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          It is anathema to open society, thus journalism, thus democracy. It is, as another commenter said, a matter of free speech. What’s public is public.

          BTW, sorry, but I HATE “publicacy.” It grates on the ear. I now “publicness,” which I use, isn’t a word either. But it sure sounds better.

      • http://www.afge.org DaveC
      • http://sriyansa.wordpress.com/ Sriyansa

        “But when you are in the public, what you do is public, and that is owned by the public, not you.”

        Ownership does not imply total control or vice versa. Laws and culture in each society have evolved to create a contract between the individuals, companies and government on how this public data can be utilized and how it cannot be. An understanding of this contract bears upon the decisions of individual entities on how to act in the public space.

        We do not have this contract on the Internet. Nor am I sure given the diverse cultural and national background of the physical actors, a consensual contract can be arrived upon. But without raising this, we are just looking at half of the picture

      • http://projectheresy.com Tim

        Kids playing in the park or at local pool. Photos taken. Put on child porn sites.

        This is totally ok according to your comments.

        Discuss.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Bullshit, in a word.

  • http://katecarruthers.com/blog Kate Carruthers

    big insight for me from this is internet as ‘place’ rather than as ‘medium’

    thanks :)

    • Eric Gauvin

      That’s an interesting aspect of this, and I wish Jarvis would provide more detail about his concept of the internet as a place. Note, however, he also sometimes refers to the internet as a medium.

      Perhaps we conceive of it more like a medium (like TV or radio). We say things are “on” the internet like TV and radio. Interestingly we say something is “in” printed media (“in a book” “in a newspaper”). Certainly it must have a lot to do with tangible vs. intangible.

      By stretching so hard to promote his bill of rights in cyberspace, Jarvis has clung to his concept of the internet as a place, but that seems to be in conflict with many of the other intangible qualities of the internet he and most everybody holds dear (for example a borderless world).

    • Eric Gauvin

      Another place-like metaphor would be the internet as another “world (separate from ours),” giving it metaphysical qualities. This I think is much better than saying the internet is a place (for example, a park) within our world and trying to give it physical attributes (like a bill of rights). I think one of the good things about the internet is that it is so otherworldly.

      • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

        I like that, too.

  • http://www.digitalpublic.de Wittkewitz

    Where do you get the somehow fixed connection between property, public and private? I think you mix up some logical categories. Privacy in terms of a discussion about transparency of data usage of third parties is another issue than privacy as an issue of vulnerability (i.e. cyberbullying and stuff). Google does not use all this data as a charity project or a means of emancipation or even democratizing or bringing hidden secrets to light that would foster a modern notion of democracy. They are company like a thousand others, execpt for the fact that they make billions of dollars with online ads. They sell search users to other companies. The horse’s mouth is the point, that everything that happens in public is protected as far as it looks typical or general. In germany everytime you can identify a person in public space (on a photo or video), you are not allowed to publish it. So the “bad” thing is not taking pictures, but by doing so with stuff that is for free or as you would say “in public”. If anyone would sell information on rich americans who are often abroad, with a schedule of all your trips, conferences and your apartment data so that burglars could plan their “job”, would you agree that america is a free country and everybody can alle whatever is public? Would you like get some provision of that business or would you mind this at all Or would you like to know which products people package with your personal data? It is a question of data power. Who has the right to command, what is to be done with your personal data as a business. And who is to obey these commands. Seems to be an ethic question not a morale one.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Newspapers take pictures on streets and make money from them. That’s ok but Streetview isn’t? What about me taking a picture in a public place and selling it in a gallery?

      • http://www.blogpiloten.de Wittkewitz

        If people on this photos could be identified (close-up) one has to ask this people or can just pay people (concluded confirmation) in case of commercial publishing. German Laws make a difference, every artist or journalist has special rights to publish stuff from public spaces. Companies like Google do not work as fourth estate or as free arts so they do not have these special rights. The “german fear” is less a fear than a wish to get more control of stuff that is stored somewhere on some serverfarms in countries that do not have these strict rules for what we call “Allgemeine Persönlichkeitsrechte”. This is a bunch of laws that protect dignity of private life (vomiting, nervous breakdown on the street and stuff like that, so we make a difference if the information is of interest for the public or obviously private although happend on the streets…

      • http://projectheresy.com Tim

        I think this is a strawman argument (no offence intended). Plenty of people making good comments re: personal privacy.

        Streetview is here to stay, Google need to ensure there is a timely, transparent, accountable means for you to remove yourself from a picture. No one consented to that picture.

        These creeping reductions in our personal privacy are concerning.

        Google is not an altruistic defender of freedom.

        More data = more information = more money.

        We need to stop thinking of them in terms of them being this magical defender of human rights etc etc and see them as an excellent provider of tools, albeit tools that are used to further their business plan. That goes for Facebook too.

        If they’re collecting data on you, it’s for a reason (and no I am not a paranoid person, google me, there’s plenty of me on the web).
        Period.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          I don’t want to see creeping reductions of hte public.

          (And show me another company, government, institution, or entity that has stood up to Chinese censorship, by the way. I’m not saying they’re a magical defender. They want to be a company. So let’s get off our asses and defend free speech … and not curtail it. This holds in China, too. There, the government tells you you can’t take and share pictures of protests … in public. That is the slippery slope.)

        • http://www.checkdisout.com Matthias Weber

          Agreed.

          However, the whole discussion seems to get a bit blury, at the same time explosive. Which is a good indication that there is not a singular state-of-mind on the whole topic.

          I would discuss the two topics Google China policy and Google services separately. Otherwise the China policy would always be a rather nice alibi for other questionable practises in Google’s versatile corporate fields.

          Again, I am not arguing in total resistance of Google. But I find it valid and important to raise exactly the kind of questions in this thread today.

  • http://www.woip.blogspot.com Patrizia

    There are people who think that their image, even in public IS not public (doesn´t belong to anybody but themselves) and other who think the opposite.
    Both have the right to decide to be or not to be in a public picture or website.
    This is what the Americans call democracy, and this is the way we intend it.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Sorry, but no. If you walk down the street and I take a picture that includes you you cannot stop me. You are in public. Defending that public is important for the reasons I outline.

      • http://projectheresy.com Tim

        Hang on Jeff.

        I recognise this is your opinion, but there will be plenty (and I mean plenty) of people who will vehemently disagree.

        If someone asks me if they can take a photo of me as I necessarily go about my private business in public (an unavoidable task these days), say for art or journalism, chances are I’ll say yes. However, I ought to have the right to say no, for many reasons, one of which might be that I am in Witness Protection or I simply want the right to privacy.

        Additionally, where are you going to draw the line. ‘Tis a slippery slope. Mind if I pop my 600mm L lense over your fence?

        Your transparency particularly as it applies to your illness is commendable, but, that doesn’t mean everyone wants to live like that.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          The slippery slope is making citizens and journalists have to get approval of anyone they photograph or include in video … or write about or talk about. I’ll say it 100 times: what’s public is public.

      • Gary Owens

        If I take a photo of Tim in public, he certainly doesn’t have the right to violently try to break my camera. He didn’t say this, but it is important to state my legal right to an intact camera.

    • Gary Owens

      From what I understand, there is no legal requirement in the US or most countries for anyone to ask your permission to take your photograph in public and publish it on the Internet.

      That is free speech – and I totally agree with Jeff that Google has a right to take street views of houses that anyone can see from the street and publish photos of themselves. Don’t give me nonsense about corporate free speech being less than private free speech.

      I think there might be a prohibition for publishing a naked photo garnered during a relationship or affair and taken in a private space.

      So Jeff is correct here.

      And I believe Jeff is correct even under German law but I am not sure about that point.

      Jeff: The Zeit editorial is all bluster that doesn’t say anything. The important thing is that you got a lot of attention!

  • Andy Freeman

    Part of the issue is that much of human society and interactions are based on lies that we tell ourselves.

    One of them is that we’re supposed to feign unawareness of certain things, even though we observed them.

    The classic along these lines is the American chap who runs into to an English lady in a formal situation after having had sex with her the weekend before. He greets her as a familar and she responds “I don’t believe that we’ve been formally introduced”.

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  • http://Precursorblog.com Scott Cleland

    Jeff,
    I was intrigued that you decided to stand up and defend the web 2.0 stance that transparency (publicness) is more important than privacy.
    The term I have used to connote publicness is “publicacy” or simply the antonym of privacy. For over a year I have had a blog series “privacy vs publicacy” which can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/20/AR2010042005300.html
    I have also testified before the House Internet Subcommittee on Privacy (and publicacy) twice. In 2008: http://www.netcompetition.org/Written_Testimony_House_Privacy_071707.pdf and again in 2009:http://netcompetition.org/Written_Testimony_House_Privacy.pdf
    My core difference with you Mr. Jarvis is that I believe too many on the Internet have adopted a “finders keepers losers weepers” approach which affronts people’s desire to have personal autonomy. I believe consumers/users should have the freedom to control their privacy, if they want sell it they should be able to or if they want to protect it they can to. What we have now on the Internet is publicacy anarchy, where people have gone way over the line in proactively seeking to make what was practically always private and making it competely public. If you look at the surveys from Consumer Reports or the Annenberg School, the “public” strongly disagrees with your web 2.0-centric veiw of “publicness.” Thank you forr starting this thread.
    Respectfully, Scott Cleland, President of Precusor LLC, Chairman of NetCompetition.org, and Publisher of GoogleMonitor.com and Googleopoly.net

  • http://www.checkdisout.com Matthias Weber

    I would argue that your comparison between you as an individual taking a single snap on public streets is slightly different than a corp sending out fleets of cars with a set-up to photo-map cities worldwide.
    Isn’t there a difference between taking a single photo for your own private use to taking 100.000 photos for a commercial use?

    What does it mean when private companies sit on huge chunks of data, data which has previously been managed and supplied by public stakeholders? I am more interested in why this is happening at all.

    While I do agree that Germans tend to be over-restrictive sometimes and especially sticky to privacy laws, I am quite happy about it, too. I find it good and fruitful for the overall debate on privacy and data control to have a healthy resistance which can in the end ideally result in critical and constructive commentary in this discussion. Apparently, some of the criticism you get to read in German media is not very constructive but rather dull.

    What bothers me about all the Googles, Facebooks and likes is that they force their code of conduct onto different cultures. For me this is more like the 21st century McDonald-ization of the world. I think this is wrong. We need a debate on these cultural issues, and it should be as diverse as the different countries and cultures effected from e.g. street view. Without this debate, the internet culture might be imposed on us by corporations. I do not want this to happen while this certainly does not mean that I want to block or boycott new products and services in the internet. But: where is the people’s share in this development if everyone plays the corps game?

    I certainly see, understand and support the value of sharing. But I also value to be able to self-control on the one hand and have rather democratic institutions than corporations in charge of huge chunks of data. Why should we all suddenly act bare-naked on the internet when we wouldn’t want to stand bare-naked on some kind of public square in real life? This is the point where the sauna-equation doesn’t work for me. We need to keep in mind that people and cultures have certain values and practises that they will not completely abandon just for the internet’s sake.

    I am against blind obedience towards doubtful corporate practises, just because they work perfectly in another part of the world.

    • Gary Owens

      Matthias: Your comment appeared Marxist. If a very busy individual did this for all of Munich, he would be hailed as a hero. Everyone has a right to take photos. Corporations can do so without asking for permits that individuals don’t need (I would agree that, by publishing them, individuals do have the right to protest ex posto facto if they are depicted walking out of a German sex shop or brothel or their lover’s apartment building). Google does a good job of blurring faces anyway.

      The German Internet industry has been crushed partly by false concerns about privacy…many of which have been pushed by the old media concerns who had ulterior concerns in stopping new media.

      More serious concerns are discussed in the USA where some companies sell birth-dates and even medical information. My birthday is more private than the view of my home from the street.

      It was the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany where photos of buildings were not allowed from the street.

      250,000 Americans died trying to overthrow the Nazis who took it upon themselves to regulate individual and corporate activity.

      Denn ist es verdammt fantastisch zu können, virtuelle auf einer Straße zu gehen bevor mann richtig besuchen wird. Sie können sogar sparen Zeit und Geld, indem Sie virtuelle Touren durch Deutschland machen kann. Gelähmt oder sterbenden Menschen kann praktisch reisen.

      Google Street view is wonderful because it is damned fantastic to be able to virtually walk on a street before going there in person. You can even save time and vacation money by doing virtual tours of Germany. Paralyzed or dying people can virtually travel.

      Google Street View is absolutely fantastic for a free society where governments don’t consider themselves to be in a position to block photographing of buildings like the Soviet Union or North Korea or the Third Reich.

      And, no, even if a “majority” of people in Germany are somehow against the free photographing of buildings, that doesn’t make them correct in robbing people and corporations of their right to do so.

      The Third Reich was democratically elected and mostly operated with majority approval of new restrictive laws. Democracies are two wolves and a lamb deciding on what to have for dinner.

      Republics, not democracies, are the only fair systems. The right to photograph public spaces (including the view from public spaces) should have been specifically written into the UN Charter of Human Rights.

      The German high court in Karlsruhe may ultimately decide this. I have heard they are not anti-business.

      • Gary Owens

        I also have to wonder if part of some German “anger” over Street View is that Google is an American company and its $ billions in revenue are not part of the German economy. It would be the Soviets thinking “How did we let the Americans come here and photograph our streets and the approaches to our military institutions”.

        Has Russia allowed Street View yet?

        A German startup may have lost hundreds of millions in revenue if it had been blocked in its infancy of taking photos in public spaces (and no, non-telescopic photos from public spaces are no different than photos of public spaces).

      • http://www.checkdisout.com Matthias Weber

        Gary,

        I think your Nazi comparison is totally out of place and being German and very well aware of the German history I find it pretty sad that you came up with it.

        The fact is, I was referencing Jeff’s comparison on the personal or press street-snap. I did then raise the question whether there might be a slight difference between a corp taking 100.000 photos and a single person, be it a journalist or a private individual.

        I was trying to make a point on an internet culture that is -in my eyes- de-facto dominated by very large US corporations. I did not say: abandon Street View.

        Btw. at least according to German privacy legislations corporations are not allowed to collect and store any kind of data they’d wish to. This might be different in the country you live in, but how about respecting other cultures and with that legislations?

        Best,

        Matthias

      • Andy Freeman

        > Btw. at least according to German privacy legislations corporations are not allowed to collect and store any kind of data they’d wish to.

        There’s a difference between a company not being allowed to ask questions and keep track of interactions between said company and individuals and observing things in public.

        It’s the difference between me having control over informatation about things that I do in private and things that I do in public.

  • http://www.konni.org Konni Winkler

    You had also an appearance on MDR SPUTNIK about your opinion on paid content on the web. The coverage is here: http://sputnik.de/programm/lifestyle/re-pulica-2010-in-berlin

  • http://n3pro.squarespace.com/ Dave Hoffman

    I find the topic fascinating. I consider myself fairly open and do think about these things; I’m on twitter, facebook, linkedin, google, buzz, web, gowalla, and foursquare.

    Some of my friends are very anal when it comes to what is public. The one example I think of is what has become a popular tool in america as store “membership” or “rewards” cards. They have your basic information but also your purchasing history (as far as we know that’s it but who knows). The data is collected by some unnamed company in some unnamed location. These don’t bother my friends but posting a picture is out of the question.

    I like what you said to the effect of this is new and we are still trying to find things out. The pleaserobme.com bothered me but I often post where I’m going and it doesn’t. I’m not sure where I draw the line.

    As an american who only been to Canada I am fascinated by the culture differences in regards to this topic that I didn’t realize.

  • Eric Gauvin

    many ideas, food for thought, hard to figure out

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  • Sorin Silaghi

    Hello Jeff,

    I only saw your presentation last night and it was really interesting. But as you can imagine there are quite a few points where I disagree with you. This would of been better suited as a blog post but since I don’t have one here I am. I hope you get this and get back to me.

    First off comparing the internet to a place in the real world is flawed. I mean it is very similar but it’s also quite different: on the internet people can be whoever they want. It’s allot easier than in the real world and I think most people use this ability even if they’re not aware of doing it. For example blogs are awfully one sided when it comes to people or events from real life. And that’s going to stay like that unless we reach a point where everyone blogs about everything.

    Secondly the assumption that we need “all your data” in order to make this public forum work is flawed. What we need is for people to contribute to something they think useful instead of dumping everything, unfiltered, on the internet (including what they had for breakfast). Actually most of the data is just useless crap. Technologically we’re in a greater need now for systems that can filter out whatever I don’t want to receive than ever before. Considering the rate at which this is growing we’re going to reach a point, and rather soon, where most of our time will be spent getting rid of all the chatter rather than contributing. And you might feel this problem less than other people because dealing with chatter is part of your job. And there’s lots of people like you but I don’t think we want to turn bloggers into the politicians of tomorrow: specialized individuals that are payed solely to keep the ball rolling.

    Thirdly how do we give it any meaning? In a place of infinite connections individuals are easily overlooked. For example I recently deleted my Facebook account because I got sick of seeing people with hundreds of so called friends. Unless we add more meaning to these connections their not going to be of much value. And things like mafia wars only make it worst.

    And last but not least there’s an issue that most people are tempted to overlook: we’re using the internet for things that it was never meant to be used for. I mean it’s all fine when we just share data. But people are starting to make decisions based on what they can find about you out there. You are becoming whoever you are on the internet and that’s not how it’s supposed to be used. The internet is not supposed to be a giant folder of ID cards. And there’s a huge reason for that which is it’s not secure enough. And I think this is the real issue of privacy: before we open the flood gates and make everything public we have to make sure we have a system for digital identity that actually works so that if someone blogs in my name, for example, I can easily put a stop to it. And no username and password is not good enough.

    In the end I want to leave everyone with a thought. It came to me while writing this and it’s related to the first question you were asked at the re:publica presentation. The guy said “You writing about prostate cancer in the US might not give you health insurance for the next 10 years…”. I think that’s the best example of misplaced privacy fears that one could give. If people feel they have to withhold the truth because of possible problems with different organizations, then that’s not a privacy issue.. it’s an issue with the organizations themselves. If I blog about something personal and that gets me fired or stops me from getting a job then that’s a problem of discrimination not privacy. Either that or me lying to myself in order to keep a job I really hate. In both cases being opened helps us find the true issue and it’s not the issue itself. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Actually we’re quite far from one. And even if we could build one by means of laws and regulations, these are people we’re talking about. So how do we get to that place where everything is in the open and we’re not afraid of being judged by it?

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  • Rob Nuijten

    Big Brother is THE ultimate discrimination machine!

    Mr Jarvis does not distinguish between what we WANT to tell and show others, and what we do NOT WANT to tell and show others.
    He also generalises, as if people, OK, per country, all behave the same. He has no clue about what commercial enterprises do with private info, how one can be manipulated for whatever purpose.
    I’ll allow the man to be happy about his discovery it can be foolish to hide ones personal matters, but I find him most naive and unscientific in the build-up of his case that should proof we should all surrender to total openness about who we are, what we do and what we think.
    That’s giving yourself away to Big Brother. Remember the novel ’1984′?

    Big Brother is the perfect machine for discrimination. Discrimination that we may be totally unaware of once the Big Brother infrastructuree is all put in place.

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