Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Generational Change

NYTimes.com has a short piece on the Internet, privacy and a division of opinion among generations.

For the life of the Internet there has always seemed to me to be two privacy camps. Users who want to safeguard information about themselves and providers who want to mine and profit from information about their users.

According to the linked article there's been a split among the user group. Younger people, who grew up with the Internet and its social networking aspect are much freer with information about themselves. They see online "communities" and networks as opportunities to "profit" by manipulating information about themselves.

Not being a member of the new generation, I wish them well; but, I think they are a bit deluded.

There isn't any way for an individual to effectively control the sea of information being examined and manipulated by others on the web once it is let loose. Without judicious release of information by individuals and meaningful privacy laws, the Internet will become increasingly like a small town on cyber steroids - everyone knows (or can know) everything about their neighbors. The check on small town knowledge is that the citizens are operating in a small circle. They know who the good and the bad are and can act accordingly.

The cyber community has no such limitation. Once you've bared information about yourself (or had it gleaned by anonymous entities) it and you are fair game. You're making a bet that you, your PC, laptop and smart phone are a force capable of winning a war against vastly superior forces. The Swiss have held their own against stronger neighbors for quite a few centuries now; but, you may recall that they are far from being the world's most open and unregulated society.

Information is power as the linked article says. Government transparency is good; but, personal opacity is best for the protection of personal liberty.


Kvatch said...

I'm so in your camp on the privacy issue. Worked for a startup a couple of years ago that was geared toward letting you protect (or monetize) exactly as much of our personal information as you cared to.

Didn't work out...

Now I'm in the camp of keep your online life private, or at least segregated, as much as possible.

fermicat said...

I don't think the younger generation realizes all the ramifications of having lots of private info on the net. Once it is out there, you can't get it back.

The Curmudgeon said...

Agreed... not that you'd expect an 'anonymous' blogger to do otherwise... but I'm not really certain how one maximizes "personal opacity."

(Though I really like, and will no doubt steal, the phrase....)

Dave said...

Not to slight Kvatch and Fermi, Curmudgeon, I to really like the phrase (and feel free to steal); but, I'm not thrilled with the sentence. I went with it because I couldn't come up with anything better in the first clause.

Wendy said...