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[defrag] Maggie Fox on privacy

Maggie Fox [twitter:maggiefox] says we think about privacy wrong.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

We can feel violated when what we thought was private goes into unwanted hands. “Violated” is a strong word, and originally meant someone crossing physical space, coming into your house. Our laws of privacy are all about physical place. “We suck at context. We think here and now is all there is.” Privacy is not universal, she says. The notion that you have a private space that no one else can come into is a Western concept. In fact, ours is an American concept. There is no Russian word for privacy. George Lowenstein’s study showed the cultural basis of privacy. He found that when guarantees of confidentiality were given and people were asked to disclosed things, disclosure dropped by 50%. And the more informal the disclosure statement on a site was, the more they disclosed. People don’t think about privacy unless they’re told to think about it.

Privacy is a new concept, relative to human history. It is not global. Rooted in 18th centure property law. And it’s very squishy (= contextual). And now we’re digital. But most people really aren’t all that interested in privacy. We leave breadcrumbs all the time. “In the digital revolution, that data is incredibly valuable, but not to Big Brother.” “If you’re a spy, you shouldn’t be on Twitter.” Worrying about that is a red herring.

We ought to be much more worried about advertisers’ use of data. Their business model is ending, Maggie says. They want to transition from trying to get all the eyeballs to getting the right eyeballs. There is a market for your data. Your privacy is no longer a place. It is a commodity — something people want to buy. You should worry more about Facebook than Big Brother.

So we need to approach privacy differently. Right now, we treat privacy as something that makes you feel weird when someone violates it, e.g., when your Mom refers to your FB page. But, the marketers aren’t just making you feel weird. They’re taking something from you: your data.

Your data has value, and you ought to extract that value. Advertising recognizes that with profit-sharing, discount, loyalty programs: you can trak me in exchange for something I want.

The big sites like Amazon have value because of the data we’ve given them. Our aggregated data is the information age’s natural resource.

We need to think about privacy differently, Maggie concludes.

Q: [esther dyson] What will a company that create a service that does represent the user?
A: Great question. I don’t have the answer.

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