Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maybe its time to redefine "privacy"

Unlike my dad, who yells at the TV, I have a public forum to vent about my frustrations at news reporters.

I heard a story on NPR about the new Facebook facial recognition software implementation. The reporters were talking about the infringement on privacy.
From what I can gather, those with privacy concerns are worried about Facebook having a database that associates names with faces.
And of course, whenever people get all up-in-arms about Facebook releasing new features, they lump in "and its opt-out too!!!"

This whole thing really confuses me.
Doesn't Google/Yahoo/Altavista already have access to your photo associated with your name via an algorithm that finds every photo you posted?
Isn't it more of a privacy issue that people are posting pictures of you, typing your name at the bottom, and you don't now about it?
At least if Facebook is automatically "tagging" you, you will get an email (if you elect to get emails for tagging - which I do) letting you know that your picture is out there.

This scenario was brought home to me this past week when an anti-Facebook friend of mine finally joined. I realized that his privacy had always been violated because I had photos of him on my page, with his name under them. By joining Facebook, I was able to "tag" him, and now he knows that there are photos of him.
Doesn't that mean that his privacy is secure?
Now he can ask me NOT to post or tag the picture... because he knows about it!

Opt-out... Facebook has a great "opt-out" feature whereby you can just delete your account!
Why do people believe that because something is popular, it needs to be controlled by mass opinion? Facebook is not a politician! its a business. If you don't like what they stand for, don't play!
If you want to be a part of your social network, then there are things you have to live with.
You have to accept that people are going to gossip about you behind your back, that people are going to introduce you to their friends, show other people their vacation photos and let them know that "see that woman there? that's my friend so-and-so".
Facebook gives you the same controls, restrictions, and lack of privacy that exist in society.
If you want to be a part of society, then you accept both the technological and non-technological constraints of membership.

Perhaps I am numb to the whole privacy thing because I don't live behind a veil where you don't know who I am.
I have an obvious car... if you know me, you know my car. You know where I am when you see it, if I cut you off, you will remember and notice me the next week I do it again.
I have a unique name.
I believe I am the only person in the world with this name.
If you Google me, you will know where I went to high school, college, work, the names of my publications, where I have presented papers, you probably can find where I live.
Because every hit you get on my name in any context is always going to be me.
Anything that I do that goes public in this world, you will know because there is only one person with my name.

So I wonder what it is about privacy that people are so adamant about trying to protect.