SXSW: Is Privacy Dead? Are these notes useful?

I have been derided more than once these past two days because I am not blogging about the panels that I am seeing at SXSW.

Being keen to record as much as what interested me as possible, I have been wildly typing notes into Google Docs. However, it occurs that, although not a coherent blog post, these notes might have a valule to others. So, I’ve stuck up the notes from my first panel yesterday to see if that is the case.

I also have the notes from Designing the Future of the New York Times, which I am happy to put up as well if folk think this is a useful exercise.


Is Privacy Dead?

Privacy is not a static concept.
Connect to a broader sense of private and public.
Spaces are one or another but also inbetween.
How can you negotiate privacy when you can’t control the spread of your information?

Siva Vaidhyanathan – The Googlelisation of Everything, Uni of Virginia
Privacy is not merely the opposite of publicity. Just because someone puts 100 things up on public accessible sites, doesn’t mean not concerned about the 101st.
Privacy is not a substance that can be measured, bargained with or traded away. “People are willing to trade a bit of privacy in order to have a better user experience” sounds like it’s a substance. It’s not.
Privacy is a bad word for what we mean – 19th century word we’re stuck with because we haven’t come up with anything better.

Alice Marwick – PhD Student – the effect of social media on social status.
Belief that people over-share don’t care about privacy.
CEOs exist that wouldn’t hire someone without a FB profile.
Social value by becoming part of the conversation – becoming part of a group
Profound support from people online – emotional.

Twitter isn’t a series of what ate for breakfast.
More info you put out there about yourself, more info there is for data miners, advertisers, etc. Can be aggregated
Can create very valuable profiles of people
If yo9u put info out there does that mean you consent for it to be used in other ways? I argue no.

Judith Donath – MIT Media Lab
Visualisations/portraits of you online. “Online history is the equivalent of the body, you build it up over time.” Previously online ID was ephemeral. By adding content you build it and add control.

Previously had different personas for different circumstances. Yet online it is easy for them to collapse – in Facebook and Googlew Searches. Is this a problem? What number of facets will humans end up with.

Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research

Trying to negotiate real-world privacy rules in online space.
In 1970s there was a blip 1973-76 where Americans concerned about citizen and consumer rights. Hot and vocal public movement to protect info from abuse by the state. Strong support in Congress too. Result was laws about the credit rating system, allowing systems of appeal.
Strongest of these was undermined by Cheney. Ever since moment taken privacy for granted – interface between us and data collecting firms is now causing concern.

We need the self awareness of what your data self looks like so that you can shape it. You might want to see what trail of credit card payments you are leaving behind you.
It’s hard to have a historical perspective of what’s normal.
Coming from a period of excessive amounts of privacy. In small villages people had virtually no privacy.

For kids home was not a private space because their parents are in control. Internet felt more private because they felt in control.

Every social context has a specific flow of information. Eg. Medical records at doctors is fine, but doctor talking to a friend is a violation.
Happy telling my best friend about romantic problem, but wouldn’t expect that to be put on FB.

This is on a continuum. Context flow into each other online without choices being made.
People say don’t believe in the separation of public and private, yet they also say there is stuff that they don’t put online. It is about constructing a sense of self. One woman puts so much on line people assume that she will always be open, but she keeps personal stuff to herself.

Should the burden of privacy control be placed on the individual? Should have an “opt in” rather than and “opt out”.

Personal info is a form of currency, particularly in the aggregate. If that’s true and I’m creating currency by my online movements, shouldn’t I be aware to which extent my info is being used.

MOst tech-savvy would be adept at managing much of their online reputations, but we are the elite. We have to worry about those who are unaware or incapable of employing self-help.

As elites we are too comforted by the fact that we could employ proxy servers or PGP to hide our online activity. The important thing is not that elites can use it, the important thing is that Mum or kid can’t use it. We need to design something that will give control with the lowest form of understanding.

Things that put online today can be taken out of context. Not just now but 20 years time. Can seem very scary, but can also say we’re creating a more open society that must be tolerant. Many possibilities of the direction in which this can go in.

Public spaces are where there are a great deal of control. But online public space exists where these norms are very broad.

Some surveillance – looking out for other people’s kids for example is actually quite welcome.
We engage in these transactions with each other. We give information because we negotiate power differences and because there is reciprocity.
But when I trade with Amazon the only reciprocity is I can choose another vendor. When I deal with the State there is no reciprocity unless I know as much about the state as it knows about me.
Reciprocity needs to be built into all these relationships.

Reciprocity is the key

THe social face you have in LinkedIN is professional and alot people who are friends on FB firend me on LinkedIN but the two spheres are very different.
When using multiple services with different contexts.

Celebrity – we can obsess over a celebrity’s life without them knowing anything about them.
We can follow people online and think we know them even though they don’t follow us back.
Micro-celebrities have a different relationship because they have exchanges with their audiences. IN practice that isn’t really true you will see a micro-celebrity in a social situation and there is a sense of a power inequality. Your audience is always your audience, there is always a one to many unequal relationship
How people manage it is different. Some are comfortable with fans, some not. Trickled down to all levels. Need to self brand and become product to be consumed. This s becoming more and more the case.

How do you have a large society figure out what the norms are? The function of celebrity is that you have soc of millions of people or trying to come up with what their norms are, so millions have one relationship with one set and can have conversations around those people’s behaviour and learn through that.

We should assume that people that choose to engage with the public
Michael Phelps should not take an economic hit when he engages in something that all guys his age do (smoke pot)


Privacy in the home
Young people negotiate it differently with different audience. Care about power play of parents and peers, but not so much about corporations.
Will try and trick the systems to play with their friends. May give wrong age, but will give birthdate because they want friends to know their birthday.

Do we not assume giving up info for use of a free application?
We should actively assume it. It’s not a fair contract as we can’t negotiate it. Even if you do read ToS, most of us don’t understand it.
Googloe ToS were originally horribly opaque – never says explicitly what it will use your data for. Generalises to allow Google space to experiment.
Google and FB have don the most to make ToS clear, but many people and corporations do.
Need a clear sense of what we give up and what we get.
What does it look like if you aggregate all the information that you leave behind? That’s the important thing to see as most of the information on its own is not that valuable.
Ability to see that would help negotiate that.

4 thoughts on “SXSW: Is Privacy Dead? Are these notes useful?

  1. Hi Jo. Very interesting stuff – the NYT stuff sounded fascinating from last night’s tweets.

    BTW – just noticed your use of Quaker’s comment on the right hand side. very good!

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