Steve Rubel Says There Is No Right to Privacy

Question: Is privacy possible in the digital age?

Steve Rubel: You’re assuming there’s a notion of privacy. I mean, I was with a publisher of a major news media site today and we were talking about privacy, and we were saying that if we went out in the street and you ask a hundred people about privacy or cookies or whatever, they wouldn’t even know.

I think the vast majority of people, even educated people, don’t have a sense for the data that’s being collected about them and that’s being used to target at them in positive and negative ways. I think there is an aware of spyware and viruses and things in that nature because it’s very much in your face. But you know, just simple things like, you know, how your data is being used in all those websites and what your, you know, what rights you have for that data and to get that data out of that system unit if you want it. 

People have no awareness of and it’s going to. I think it’s going to take a 9/11 type of event for privacy to really shake people to their core and recognize they’ve got to pay attention to this and then and only then I think will they take responsibility.

The terrorism model is probably right. If you, you know, if you saw five young guys on a plane, dispersed throughout the airplane that were kind of doing suspicious things, you would pay attention to it and you would maybe tell the flight attendant and you would and honest to God forbid that they did something. I think that the likelihood of us having another attack exactly the same way that those guys did it is impossible. There’s too many people on too many planes that will try to stop them because we saw the movie already. I think that we have awareness now about terrorism that we didn’t have before. 

Same thing I think happens with privacy. I think, there's going to be, there’s going to be some sort of 9/11 event that takes place that where some giant breach that affects a lot of people of some kind whether it’ll be, maybe it’s with the government or maybe it’s with, you know, a major bank where I mean, literally people will lose their livelihoods or whatever that will shake people to that core and recognize that "okay, I now going to take privacy into my own hands as a user and do something about it."

Question: Are gross violations of privacy happening everyday on the Web?

Steve Rubel: No. I haven’t seen any. I mean, what I know that everyone’s worry about is Google. They seem to be doing an incredible job with how they let you export your data. Pretty much any data you put in Google, you can either delete or export easily which you can’t necessarily do for Facebook.

You know, there’s no way for you to export your address book in Facebook if you want to. If you end your relation with Facebook, and say, "I want to delete my account." I think there has been some problems with that in the past but you can do that now pretty easily. But if you’re going to take, you know, those connections with you and that contact information with you or your photos with you, good luck. You’re not going to do that. 

Goggle is doing a better job with that but I think we’re going to see those expectations rise and people are going to want to, want to have more of their data exportable and I haven’t seen, you know, companies that are really like nefarious doing that because I think that stuff just gets outted in a hurry and…But it’s more of the stuff that’s being collected behind your back that you've got to worry about.

Recorded on: May 27, 2009

 

Privacy is fast becoming a privilege, not a right.

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