In an opinion column at Reuters, Don Tapscott discusses the right of privacy in the digital age, when technology has made it easy to broadly share data. He argues that everyone should have “a personal privacy strategy.”
Since I co-authored a book on privacy and the Internet 15 years ago I’ve been writing about how to manage the various threats to the security and control of our personal information. But today I find myself in a completely unexpected discussion. A growing number of people argue that the notion of having a private life in which we carefully restrict what information we share with others may not be a good idea. Instead, sharing our intimate, personal information with others would benefit us individually and as a society.
This is not a fringe movement. The proponents of this view are some of the smartest and most influential thinkers and practitioners of the digital revolution. […]
Other thought leaders like Tim O’Reilly (he coined the term “Web 2.0″) or Steward Brand (author of the Whole Earth Catalog) defend an individual’s right to privacy. But they argue that the benefits of sharing personal information are becoming so beneficial to each of us and so widespread that we need to shift the discussion from what to share, to how to ensure the information we share is used appropriately. Says Brand: “I’d be totally happy if my personal DNA mapping was published.”
It may well be that our fundamental ideas about identity and privacy, the strategies that we have collectively pursued and the technologies that we have adopted must change and adapt in a rapidly evolving world of connectivity, networking, participation, sharing and collaboration. But this will take a long time, and in the meantime there are many challenges and even dangers. […]
The tensions between information freedom and personal control are exploding today, and not simply because of the benefits of sharing information using new media. Rather there are massive commercial and government interests, as well as malevolent individuals, that have a lot to gain from each of us revealing highly granular personal information, much of it in the public domain by default and in real time as we travel through life.
But given that there are few social and legal controls over what happens to our personal information, a life plan of “being open” is probably a big mistake. Personal information, be it biographical, biological, genealogical, historical, transactional, locational, relational, computational, vocational or reputational, is the stuff that makes up our modern identity and is the foundation of our personal security. It must be managed responsibly – not just by others, but by each of us. The clear and present danger is the irreversible erosion of that most enabling of liberties: anonymity.