Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Privacy Shuffle

The surge in popularity and the integration into everyday life of social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter has caused many to wonder why some many people are willingly descreasing their privacy. Let's think about that statement critically for a moment. Are people actually giving up their privacy or are we using an outdated and out-of-touch definition of privacy?

I would argue that the answer is closer to the latter. The downside of living in a society where the technological rate of change is soastronomically high is that our societal norms and values cannot keep pace with these rapid technology advances. While society as a whole maybe technologically advanced compared to 500+ years ago but some would argue that our core beliefs and value systems as a whole have not advanced at nearly the same pace.

Furthermore, there are obvious generational gaps in what privacy means and how it is perceived. The majority of people under thirty (who grew up with the Internet and home PCs) would give little pause in posting pictures, statistics, or other information about themselves online (few would consider it a breach of their personal privacy). Compare that with older generations and you would be lucky to find many people that would voluntarily post personal info on the social networking sites.

As a society we need to redefine "privacy." Young people are more at ease in showing the world who they actually are. I would argue that this promotes a more open and accountable society. If we all knew and understood each other a little better we would be less likely to go war or be prejudiced against one another. Kramer may have been onto something when he began posting pictures of all the tenants living in his building.

It's important to remember that we are all human and that by definition humans are not perfect; we do make mistakes. I have more respect and admiration for someone who is open, accountable, and genuinely remorseful for their actions compared to someone who hides their transgressions behind a veiled screen of privacy.

Needless to say, it is still vital that we protect our personally identifiable information (such as social security and credit-card number, passwords to online banking sites etc). This is crucial in a protecting your personal identity (not your privacy). It does not make much sense to use outdated social values and norms with 21st century technology. It's time to redefine our society's privacy filter.

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