Battle of Ideas: Privacy is Dead. Long Live Privacy? is a long video but well worth watching (it is divided into sections so doesn’t have to be seen in one go). The description says: “For many of us, divulging intimate details of our private lives via social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook has become the norm. But information and communication technologies have also facilitated surveillance and data gathering by government and big businesses. While in some contexts we seem so ready to give up our privacy, in others we seem increasingly anxious to protect it.”
The debate was hosted by the Institute of Ideas and features six excellent speakers who talk about designing technology so that it doesn’t violate privacy, the social and political debates – or lack thereof – around notions of what is public and what is private, and the effects of social media and new technology.
I found this very interesting as bridging a couple of themes that have been on my mind after hearing a talk by Matthew of 6consulting – a social media monitoring and engagement company. Firstly, the blurring of the lines between private and public in online spaces, which was also raised in relation to the national web archiving initiatives by the British Library and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF -which I wrote about in October) and secondly the idea that social media are taking over from traditional knowledge management. It has all left me wondering if social media will eat itself. It makes me think of science fiction stories about telepathy driving everyone crazy because actually knowing what people are thinking about you all the time is a nightmare!
I am a frequent user of social and real world networks and am also happy to have an online presence that is a public “performed” persona. However, I also like to have spaces where I can try out new and possibly crazy ideas in the company of friends without worrying that every off the wall idea is going to be preserved for ever more. I don’t want the world to see me “in rehearsal”, so does that mean I shouldn’t use social media spaces to experiment with ideas? If so, I can only try out ideas with the people I am geographically close to, which again seems to undermine part of the wonderful global connectivity of the online space. Closed, private networks, where we invite only people we can trust, get round this, but then you lose the power and appeal of the mass open networks.
So, how does this relate to taxonomies? Jeffrey Rosen talks about surveillance cameras being used as a tool for “classification and exclusion” of people – e.g. you are categorised as a shoplifter, so you are banned from the city centre, which links to Bowker and Star’s work on the politics of catgorisation of people in Sorting Things Out. I think that as knowledge workers, we are perhaps more aware than others of the potential uses and abuses of personal data and so we should be contributing to the debate on what information should be collected, classified, archived, and destroyed.