The concern of privacy

I read an interesting article on USA Today’s website: “Some ditch social networks to reclaim time, privacy


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The reporting is on the trend of more and more people quitting social networks.  What spoke to me most is how much of a minority opinion this was. Here’s a quote:

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Lucca, Italy-based Seppukoo helped 20,000 people erase themselves from Facebook after the site launched last fall. Two-month-old Web 2.0 Suicide Machine — where a noose dangles near a ticker tracking the digital mayhem (“181,898 friends have been unfriended, 329,908 tweets removed”) — has been used by 2,600 people. Thousands more are waiting to be accommodated by the site’s small server, says Walter Langelaar, 32, one of three programmers who created the “art project” for Moddr, a media lab in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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20,000 people?

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2,600 people?

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Facebook has 400 Million active users. Twitter is in the mid 8-digits. Myspace is in the hundreds of millions.

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With more users, you’ll have more attrition — I don’t think the “trend” being reported here is much to think about. Facebook has maintained incredible user-activation (50% of it’s users log-in daily). The examples in the article are clearly  from a minority.

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My friend Ben Casnocha posted yesterday about privacy, RIP Privacy and Identiy Synthesis on the Web.  It’s a good read, and I would wager he would agree with my statements above, especially given his statement that: “many users do not understand how their personal information is tracked and displayed. But I do not think the majority mainstream users of any age care and I think no young people care. Young people will soon replace old people.”

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Ben and I may be buying slinkys on this one, but the privacy argument is becoming moot.  Here’s my outlook:

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  1. There are still large risks associated with giving up privacy, but far fewer than decades past.
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  3. Our culture is clearly headed to sharing more, not less, information.
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Bottom Line:  Privacy is dying. We are wasting our time trying to save it. Instead, let’s make the world safer for those who are living out in the open — because pretty soon, the majority of us will be.

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It sounds radical, and full of the brashness of youth, but… I’m pretty sure it’s correct. I think that message needs to be spread wide and far. And I don’t just mean removing the risk to US Citizens like those profiled in USA Today above, I mean protesters in Iran. As Jonathan Zittrain noticed in a talk I attended last year, Iran could pretty easily/cheeply use Amazon Mechanical Turk to identify and persecute dissidents (starts at 32:45).  The safety of privacy will increasingly be an illusion that can be destroyed almost at-will by those with real power.

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You want that in twitter friendly length?  No problem. Put this in your pipe and tweet it:

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“Focus on making the world safer for living without privacy — soon, you won’t have any left.” /via @tylerwillis  http://bit.ly/bOdSSN

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