Anybody got a pen? Someone should mark this in the calendar as the day I agreed with Michael Arrington. Though he approaches it with his usual deft touch (‘Mice nuts,’ anyone?), he hits the nail squarely on the head regarding online privacy.
A quick re-cap of how we got here: you may remember Facebook changing its privacy settings a few weeks back. Tech geeks were horrified and began deleting their accounts, while your non-techie friends likely posted something in all caps in their status, then moved on. Over the past weekend, Arrington had a quickie Q&A with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the ensuing headline – Privacy is Dead! – raised everyone’s hackles all over again. This morning, Arrington called us all Luddites for caring. And a good morning to *you* too!
I met with a company a few days ago that deals in data and one of the execs said something I had to scribble down immediately. “Why should your privacy fetish impinge on my need for data usefulness? There is a very real danger here of the tyranny of the minority.” Privacy fetish – I love it.
Arrington raises a very salient point in his post: if you’re a participant in the 21st-century modern world, your privacy has already been compromised past the point of hope. Unless you’re living off the grid in a mud hut – in which case you’re not reading this – ‘they’ know everything about you. So any personal campaigns you’re waging to protect your Facebook quiz results are, well, something of a fetish. Further, as the data exec points out, some very real benefits lie in the exploitation of said data. All the screaming we’re doing about making Google work better and ending the glut of information that’s thrown at us? Not going to be solved without using our personal data.
Now let me beat you to the punch: won’t someone please think of the children? Yes, there is a separate raft of concerns when it comes to kids online. But if you’re under any illusions that ‘they’ know less about your kids simply because they’re small – well you’re wrong about that too.
I realize that it’s out of character for me to say, essentially, “They’ve already won. Just give in.” But I’m afraid that’s the case here. While I’m not advocating you start taking naked pictures of yourself and using them as profile pics, I am saying that if you want to participate in technology as it stands today, you have to let go of a few illusions. And key among them is that you’re currently in control of your online data.