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    CBS News Tech Talk: The Privacy Factor

    CBS News’ Tech Talk blog has a post about privacy rights in the digital age:

    In the virtual worlds we can receive a broad spectrum of feedback and approval and encouragement in a brief period of time in a way that’s simply not possible in the real one. And it’s worth noting that privacy is not the same thing as secrecy. What we deem unfit for public consumption may still be something we share with our closest (real-life) friend. But our avatar or alter ego saw social networks as a chance to feel justified or accepted or vindicated. And if you think your social network profile doesn’t exemplify some of those tendencies then go through your list of friends and count how many you see on a regular basis or know really well or have ever met in person. Why do they each receive the same sentiments?

    Protecting our personal information used to mean ensuring that an e-commerce transaction was secure or not revealing your full name on a particular newsgroup site. Of course this process didn’t happen overnight and you could argue that we need to get with the program and move on. (The seamless, subtle nature is perhaps largely why we accepted it without much protest.)

    That’s certainly the argument that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made in early January when he told a group of reporters and analysts that, in essence, the age of privacy is over. Zuckberg says that internet users have become comfortable sharing all sorts of information and “more openly and with more people” than ever before, referring to it as the new “social norm.” […]

    One of the most popular technology stories on The New York Times Web site is titled 3 Facebook Setting Every User Should Check Now.” And guess what? They’re all related to making your profile MORE private not less private. So clearly there’s an appetite for keeping the shutters drawn on our online living room. But while we may block out the obvious interlopers (switching settings from “Everyone” to “Friends Only”) it’s a slippery slope when we receive friend requests from random strangers or little-known family members. The temptation to share with someone new or see what their lives are like is pretty powerful. […]

    But the question of balancing privacy is parallel to the question of balancing relationships. My point here is that sacrificing privacy has coincided with sacrificing the quality of relationship interactions. We’re letting the desire for recognition replace the desire for reflection. Granted, we’re also guilty of letting our handheld devices (iPhone, BlackBerry, laptop, etc.) get in the way of physical intimacy but that’s another chapter altogether (more later).

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