Monday, January 18, 2010

(empo-tuulwey) Publicity (the opposite of privacy) and the gravy train

None of us shares absolutely everything with absolutely everybody, whether online or in real life. For example, something happened to me in real life on Sunday afternoon. We have a dog. We have a backyard. I mentioned to my family something that I had to do in the backyard on Sunday afternoon that involved the dog. My family asked that I please not share this information during lunchtime.

I don't know if Louis Gray has a dog, but I know that he has a Mac. And he has kids. And he has a yard. You can find out a lot about Louis and his family by looking at his Blippy page, He even wrote a post about it; here's an excerpt:

After first having a mental block on the entire concept of Blippy, I realized it could be interesting to share my iTunes purchases and my Netflix rentals with friends, and see what they were buying online. After all, if we are so willing to share those things that we like (See MyLikes for that) or things we are a fan of (try Facebook), it makes more sense to take a step upward and show what we actually spent money on.

Gray's conclusion, after looking at his purchases, is that he's a pretty boring guy. You could probably draw the same conclusion from looking at the Foursquare feeds of various people, including myself.

But Gray's post focused on the benefits to THE SHARER of sharing his/her information. I wrote a lengthy comment to Gray's post that began as follows:

While your Blippy feed may be interesting to you or your friends, it could be REALLY interesting to data miners and data aggregators.

I then gave some examples, then talked about when things are shared or not shared. But rather what I said on the topic, I'm going to look at what Dana Boyd said:

Privacy isn't a technological binary that you turn off and on. Privacy is about having control of a situation. It's about controlling what information flows where and adjusting measures of trust when things flow in unexpected ways. It's about creating certainty so that we can act appropriately. People still care about privacy because they care about control. Sure, many teens repeatedly tell me "public by default, private when necessary" but this doesn't suggest that privacy is declining; it suggests that publicity has value and, more importantly, that folks are very conscious about when something is private and want it to remain so. When the default is private, you have to think about making something public. When the default is public, you become very aware of privacy.

Boyd continued:

No one makes money off of creating private communities in an era of "free." It's in Facebook's economic interest to force people into being public, even if a few people break up with Facebook in the process.

Steven Hodson, when he wrote his post that was inspired by Boyd's post, put it a little more bluntly.

Facebook, and other services like it, can’t afford privacy. Its business model is built around us all being mindless blabber-mouths. It needs us to believe that privacy is an archaic ideology.

And we know Facebook's business model - all of that content, surrounded by a bunch of ads that are served up especially for you, based upon the information that you provided to Facebook. I get ads that are targeted for people over 40. You probably don't.

And these ads appear when I'm just checking out my Facebook feed, or when I'm playing Starfleet Commander or Farm Town, or when I'm checking Louis Gray's feed.

Now Facebook's ads are imperfect - maybe this is something I'll address in a future post - but Facebook hasn't yet presented the ad that I really want. I want to see an add for a dog poop cleaning service.

Oh, I'm sorry - was that too much information?

(Picture source, license - and yes, someone shared the photo on Flickr. And I saw Flickr advertisements when I was searching for the picture.)
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