The Privacy Issue Is Still Going Strong

Some say the way privacy is encoded into software doesn’t match the way we handle it in real life. If this is truw, what’s being done about it? Who will be our champion to protect our privacy?

Amplify’d from www.technologyreview.com

Each time Facebook’s privacy settings change or a technology makes personal information available to new audiences, people scream foul. Each time, their cries seem to fall on deaf ears.

Credit: Nick Reddyhoff

The reason for this disconnect is that in a computational world, privacy is often implemented through access control. Yet privacy is not simply about controlling access. It’s about understanding a social context, having a sense of how our information is passed around by others, and sharing accordingly. As social media mature, we must rethink how we encode privacy into our systems.

Privacy is not in opposition to speaking in public. We speak privately in public all the time. Sitting in a restaurant, we have intimate conversations knowing that the waitress may overhear. We count on what Erving Goffman called “civil inattention”: people will politely ignore us, and even if they listen they won’t join in, because doing so violates social norms. Of course, if a close friend sits at the neighboring table, everything changes. Whether an environment is public or not is beside the point. It’s the situation that matters.

Whenever we speak in face-to-face settings, we modify our communication on the basis of cues like who’s present and how far our voices carry. We negotiate privacy explicitly–“Please don’t tell anyone”–or through tacit understanding. Sometimes, this fails. A friend might gossip behind our back or fail to understand what we thought was implied. Such incidents make us question our interpretation of the situation or the trustworthiness of the friend.

All this also applies online, but with additional complications. Digital walls do almost have ears; they listen, record, and share our messages. Before we can communicate appropriately in a social environment like Facebook or Twitter, we must develop a sense for how and what people share.

When the privacy options available to us change, we are more likely to question the system than to alter our own behavior. But such changes strain our relationships and undermine our ability to navigate broad social norms. People who can be whoever they want, wherever they want, are a privileged minority.

As social media become more embedded in everyday society, the mismatch between the rule-based privacy that software offers and the subtler, intuitive ways that humans understand the concept will increasingly cause cultural collisions and social slips. But people will not abandon social media, nor will privacy disappear. They will simply work harder to carve out a space for privacy as they understand it and to maintain control, whether by using pseudonyms or speaking in code.

Read more at www.technologyreview.com

The Privacy Issue Is Still Going Strong

Some say the way privacy is encoded into software doesn’t match the way we handle it in real life. Yet, what’s being done about this? How will be our champion to protect our privacy?

Amplify’d from www.technologyreview.com

Each time Facebook’s privacy settings change or a technology makes personal information available to new audiences, people scream foul. Each time, their cries seem to fall on deaf ears.

Credit: Nick Reddyhoff

The reason for this disconnect is that in a computational world, privacy is often implemented through access control. Yet privacy is not simply about controlling access. It’s about understanding a social context, having a sense of how our information is passed around by others, and sharing accordingly. As social media mature, we must rethink how we encode privacy into our systems.

Privacy is not in opposition to speaking in public. We speak privately in public all the time. Sitting in a restaurant, we have intimate conversations knowing that the waitress may overhear. We count on what Erving Goffman called “civil inattention”: people will politely ignore us, and even if they listen they won’t join in, because doing so violates social norms. Of course, if a close friend sits at the neighboring table, everything changes. Whether an environment is public or not is beside the point. It’s the situation that matters.

Whenever we speak in face-to-face settings, we modify our communication on the basis of cues like who’s present and how far our voices carry. We negotiate privacy explicitly–“Please don’t tell anyone”–or through tacit understanding. Sometimes, this fails. A friend might gossip behind our back or fail to understand what we thought was implied. Such incidents make us question our interpretation of the situation or the trustworthiness of the friend.

All this also applies online, but with additional complications. Digital walls do almost have ears; they listen, record, and share our messages. Before we can communicate appropriately in a social environment like Facebook or Twitter, we must develop a sense for how and what people share.

When the privacy options available to us change, we are more likely to question the system than to alter our own behavior. But such changes strain our relationships and undermine our ability to navigate broad social norms. People who can be whoever they want, wherever they want, are a privileged minority.

As social media become more embedded in everyday society, the mismatch between the rule-based privacy that software offers and the subtler, intuitive ways that humans understand the concept will increasingly cause cultural collisions and social slips. But people will not abandon social media, nor will privacy disappear. They will simply work harder to carve out a space for privacy as they understand it and to maintain control, whether by using pseudonyms or speaking in code.

Read more at www.technologyreview.com

 

Facebook’s privacy policies hit a language barrier

The privacy issue… and the issues around privacy continue to grow.

Amplify’d from news.cnet.com

McDonald’s. Blockbuster. And now Facebook? The social network and its controversial privacy policies are teeming with new complications as regulators overseas increasingly start to regard them as a suspicious, Americanizing import.

This week, data protection officials in Hamburg, Germany, sent a menacing missive in Facebook’s direction, accusing the social network of partaking in illegal activities by retaining data about people who aren’t members of the site but whose contact information may have come into its possession through members’ e-mail importer tools. Last year, the privacy commissioner in Canada put significant pressure on Facebook to simplify its privacy controls, citing concerns that were pulled back into the spotlight when a Toronto law firm filed suit against Facebook this month, for which it’s seeking class-action status.

There will be more incidents like these. Facebook’s privacy policies, however maligned by advocacy groups, have thus far held up decently well in the U.S.; a coalition of senators who called attention to the amount of data that Facebook shares with third parties quieted down when the social network made some modifications. But more than three quarters of Facebook’s users live outside the U.S., in countries where laws are different, and where lawmakers are much less likely to agree with the Facebook concept–or even the American concept–of online privacy.

Read more at news.cnet.com