SxSWi09: Is Privacy Dead or Just Very Confused?

Let me just get this off my chest before I explode…Can we please drop the word 'dead'? As Kathy Sierra so wonderfully suggested in her SxSWi09 session: Rethink deadness. Please!

The topic of privacy could not be any more relevant to me than right now because at my government job, the social media initiatives we have executed are affecting relevancy of current privacy policies (i.e. cookie use). Also, this conversation dovetails into the controversy of curating personal brand.



  • Privacy is not a static concept. Based upon experience (limited by individual), everyone has a different meaning of private and public.
  • Popular misconception (due to lack of privacy/tech education): People are willing to give up privacy for a better user experience.
  • The word privacy has negative connotations for such broad concerns.
  • Positive value to privacy relates to series of conversations encompassing: 1. Pragmatic (Hiring/Recruitment); 2. Social (Partaking in conversation); 3. Social Support (Profound).
  • Social visualization of all actions function as portraits. The more data accessible to companies allows for aggregation of data into profiles. Online history is equivalent to a body.
  • Donath: How do you establish control over so many public faces? "We need a mirror to see ourselves to moderate our behaviors."
  • Norms of conversation are gray. In a restaurant, you would not jump into conversation occurring in another booth, but we do not have same filter in online sphere.
  • The most important change has not been in technology, but political economy. The reward for target data has eroded privacy comfort level. Most people are unaware of information they leave behind as online breadcrumb trail. We are living in the abstract.
  • It is extremely difficult to have historical sense of normal because until recently (in historic terms), we lived in a public village and now we are an isolated society offline.
  • Transformations are accelerated online because history has never been recorded as it is currently.
  • Boyd: "Young people do not see home as their private space because of their lack of control (i.e. parents), but online they see as private (away from parental constraints).
  • Marwick: Is it individual or corporate burden to expose privacy? Online information default should be opt-in. We need to define contextual integrity.
  • Vaidhyanathan: Information is a form of currency. Individual must be aware of use and abuse. We must constantly look in the digital mirror.
  • Vaidhyanathan: We (those at SXSWi) are elite, but average individual is not aware of all the switches and dials of collected data. We need to create a policy of control for those people unaware and set norms to follow.
  • Donath: We should celebrate divergent ways forcing tolerance.
  • Vaidhyanathan: The communication space wants to invite surveillance versus create an allergy to surveillance. We should demand reciprocity. Reciprocity NOW.
  • Boyd: "We have an imbalance online. We feel like we know online rock stars. Micro-celebrity is in practice. We are dealing with strange power relationships where reciprocity is not freely given."
  • Vaidhyanathan: No zero sum between privacy and publicity.

What do you think as an individual and from company perspective?

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