Privacy in a Public World

Facebook rolled out Places late on Aug 18, it allows you to check in where you are through Facebook. In its default mode it also allows your friends to check you in. Lifehacker has a good article on how to adjust your privacy settings for Places to a level you are comfortable with.

This again brought out the issue of privacy. Some of the answers to the issue of privacy by those who believe being public is best ranged from impractical to absurd, such as don’t be on these social sites, to change your name, which is what Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt suggested in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. (if you are unable to get the Wall Street Journal article PC world has a good review of it ) On the other side, privacy evangelist can sound like members of a lunatic fringe group, when they talk about things like RFID tags being the work of the devil.

Both sides are trivializing an issue which can very serious for a lot of people, especially women who have been in an abusive relationship, it is important that their lives remain private. In fact for them it really can be a matter of life or death. However they should be able to participate in social media sites to connect with their friends, like anyone else. If they can’t then the abuser wins. How public or private someone is should be an individual’s choice. They should be able to control that privacy level how ever they see fit. My biggest fear is that the decision making is being taken away from the individual. Just because I make part of my life public doesn’t mean I have given up my right to privacy in other parts of my life.

Anytime an application or website is created or changed in a way that affects a person privacy, that change should be made clear and public. It should not be hidden in the middle of a 65 page software license agreement. Each person should make their own choice on how public or private they want to be and it shouldn’t be a decision made others. I have made a choice to be public in most areas of my life, I however don’t presume that I have the right to make that choice for someone else.