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    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Interview with Technology Expert Sherry Turkle about Privacy

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has an interview with tech expert Sherry Turkle, and she touches on privacy, among other issues:

    In a new book titled “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle argues that new information technologies are increasingly pushing people — especially young people — into surrendering their privacy. What’s more, they are eroding the feeling that people even have a right to privacy or an expectation of privacy. In addition to other concerns, Turkle argues that these changes pose a fundamental danger to democracy. She spoke about those and other issues with RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson.

    RFE/RL: There has been a lot of talk about the benefits of cell phones and social networks and online communities for democracy movements and rights movements around the world, including in RFE/RL’s region. But your book is less sanguine. What are your concerns about the dangers of a constantly connected life for healthy democracy?

    Turkle: I think that there is a question about what is intimacy without privacy, and what is democracy without privacy. We are too quick to think that democracy does not need a zone of personal privacy around the individual. And I don’t think that’s right. I think that democracy requires a zone of personal privacy around the individual, and that we are forgetting that in our kind of infatuation with how much social networking can bring to democracy. And it doesn’t take away from how much social networking and how much the Internet can bring to democracy and to democratic movements and to social revolutions to say, “Look, we also need to be respectful of how mature democracy depends — depends — on the individual having a realm and a right to privacy.” And I think that we need to be able to keep complicated ideas in mind at the same time.

    And just because flash mobs and organizing and sharing information are dependent and reliant on social networking doesn’t mean that we don’t also need a realm of privacy to live in a mature democracy. I think that we need to be able to think these complicated thoughts, and people need to be able to protest and need a certain amount of privacy in order to get their thoughts together, and certainly need privacy in their e-mails. I mean the first thing in the United States that got protected, that the founding fathers knew to protect, was the privacy of the mail. People need that space to have seditious ideas — they do! And you can’t take that space — that’s a sacred space — to say things and have thoughts that the government might not like. And that should not be taken away, even in tough times. And I think we are losing sight of that. […]

    RFE/RL: But isn’t it also true that people are being increasingly drawn into these networks and pushed to reveal information about themselves by peer pressure and by their own desires not to miss out on fun and opportunities?

    Turkle: Yes, many forces are coming into play here. There is the market offering tools that make it cool to use applications that demand that we tell each other where we are all the time and people saying, “That’s the app I want,” “That’s the party I want to be a part of.” The new games are location-based; and to be a part of this party, you tell people where you are. But, you know, I think that we have to begin to cast a cool eye on the kind of self-surveillance that we are buying into.

    Read the full article for more of Turkle’s insights.

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