SXSW: Is Privacy Dead or Just Very Confused?

Is Privacy Dead panel

Danah Boyd, moderator, with panelists Judith Donath, Alice ?, Siva Vaidhayathan. All three panelists are affiliated with universities.

I’m mainly interested in this panel because I want to see Danah Boyd in action. I’ve been reading her for a long time and am impressed by her writing. I’m torn between watching this panel and the one on The Future of the Internet. Hope someone is blogging The Future of the Internet.

Boyd has been talking to teens about privacy. Vaidhayathan is writing “Is Google the End of Everything?” He talked about how no matter how much we have in a public space (online), there is still a point beyond which privacy is invaded. He talked about that privacy is not a ‘thing’ that has substance and can be traded away in little bits.

Privacy is actually a broad range of concerns about the collection and distribution of information about them.

Alice talked about values. She said social media has value in the technology field. The also talked about the value of social support. Although there is value, there is also a release of information that can be aggregated and used to profile people. If you put information out there, can anyone use it for any reason? She says no.

Donath talked about social visualization. How do all your social media contacts, email, etc., create a visualization of you? People have many public faces in many places. Should you have one large audience in mind or are there different audiences for your public persona? How many personas do you keep?

Boyd: there is a scale of publicity that we’ve never seen before. What are the most important things tech has changed? Vaidhayathan says its about accurate targeting of goods and services. Erosion of comfort level about privacy. In the 70s, privacy laws were passed, but privacy laws undermined by Chaney and others. Interface between personal information and business is not separate from interface between personal information and government.

Donath. We need to be able to “see” what kind of information we are leaving behind when we give information. If we could “see” what we are revealing, it might make us behave in a different way. The data trail is invisible now. In the past, you could reinvent yourself–most of history was not recorded. Now there is continuity that prevents you from leaving your past behind.

Boyd. Most teens don’t consider home a private space. They had more control over their interactions on the internet, so felt it was more private.

Alice. Social context determines the way information flows in that context. Moving information from one context to another is often consider a violation. New tech makes the contexts flow into each other. Personal choices about sharing in between contexts are being erased by technology. Is the burden on the individual or on the business that is collecting information about you? Should the default be that information is not shared?

Vaidhayathan. Information has curreny. We have no way to know how our information is being used. Many people are unaware of the ways to manage information for their own good–checkboxes, switches, online choices, etc. Laws giving even the least sophisticated a level of control are needed.

Donath. Things online can be taken out of context both now and 20 years from now. Everything is moving out of context. Privacy is the sphere of large scale institutional control. Other sphere is around our personal presentation of self.

Boyd. Design is not keeping up with the way we deal with contexts and the merging of info.

Vaidhayathan. Read Jane Jacob about surveillance. Need built in reciprocity in information exchange.

Boyd. Inequalities in information flow. How do you see the issue of celebrity and social interaction? Alice. Not really reciprical even though the celebrity seems to be sharing. A sense of inequality between celebrity and audience. Culture of self-branding and micro celebrity is an issue. Donath. What is the value of the attention that is paid to us? What is the cost of every new person you ‘friend?’ How much do you value the attention that other people pay to you?

Vaidhayathan. Someone who chooses to be engaged with the public deserves to have some say over what kind of information is revealed about them. What about people who haven’t chosen to be engaged with the public? No norms yet making a small avatar on a screen into a real person.

Turned over to questions.

One thought on “SXSW: Is Privacy Dead or Just Very Confused?”

  1. I was talking with my husband about this. we are in our 40s and tech savvy, both in the IT field. I never had a problem figuring I wan not saying things that I would not mind having repeated. He likes his privacy even about little things.

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