Myspace and Facebook have won. Second Life has lost. Myspace and Facebook proved that while people love anonymity on the Internet above all, they want to show off, they want to share a lot about themselves. And this is even more the case for the worlds 50 million bloggers, a few of whom are anonymous.

Now if hundreds of millions of people around the world want to promote themselves and sometimes share the most intimate details of their lives, why is it that there´s so much fuss on the internet about privacy? My take of this is that most people are not privacy freaks, nor do they live in fear of others finding out about themselves. If they did they would be all with secret identities somewhere in Second Life or other sites that promote anonymity.

Last week Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, wrote an article in the Financial Times asking the United Nations to work on a set of global guidelines on privacy.

While I think this is a good idea, I think the easiest idea would be to equip computers with a simple setting similar to those of hotel rooms that say “privacy please”. If all computers came with a choice that is easily found and activated that said “I want to be known on the Internet” or “I don´t”, which would basically be allowing or denying sites to keep cookies and info about your computer, that would be enough. If you are a privacy freak that is great, but sites like Facebook will erase your account if you join as say “gold digger”, and not your real name and sites like Technorati or Google will not be able to customize their results to your likings.

How do I handle this problem? Well, in my case I consider the Internet something similar to a public street. I don´t go out naked and I know that anything I do on the Internet can be seen by others.

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Lena on September 25, 2007  · 

Excellent post with a brillant headline. I’m surprised there are currently no other comments to this item. I guess it’s because you didn’t mention your iPhone. 😀 Seriously though, you raise a point that is not widely discussed in the mainstream business media but needs to be more fully addressed. Thanks.

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Rebeca on September 26, 2007  · 

Maybe the problem is in the relationship between privacy and freedom. Freedom to decide what is the moment to show your life to others. There is another detail too: Many people do not match privacy to personal data such as first name or occupation. They join the concept of privacy to their intimacy: feelings and emotions, deep changes in life. The information suitable to appear in a CV is not private yet to many people. Ideas change with the rythm of our life.

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Vic on September 26, 2007  · 

I think is not that easy… People want to have different levels of privacy at their disposal. For instance sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn allows you to control everything that the others see and I believe that is the key for privacy good practices and therefore one of the keys of the success of these sites.

If a site or a web browser only had that “white or black” privacy settings you mention I wouldn’t use them.

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uno on September 28, 2007  · 

Privacy is a cultural construct.

American sees privacy from a very different angle from let’s say Spanish. And that’s pretty good this way. What need to be regulated on a global scale is the use of metadata. We will suppose that personal data protection is good enough till now even if I disagree totally.

50 years ago very , very few people advised us of environmental threads produced by the industrialization. To day very, very few would disagree. The amount of metadata collected by mobile phone, Wifi and ISP and internet applications is very scary. More over, the enormous processing power at a very cheap cost is setting a terrible scenario.

We may not be aware of it, like the environmental impact 50 years ago, but the metadata business is the biggest thread to our freedom. Which is even more important than our privacy.

I’m probably one of the most optimistic person in this world but this thread always sends me on the other side. Some will argue that in our old villages anyone knew about anyone and than conclude, easily, that it is the same story but a little more sophisticated. The difference is that in my old village I knew the people who knew about me or at least the vast majority. To day , and more in the next decade, we will never know who they are and even more what do they do with those data.

May be that we, before or at the same time of this Google initiative, should discuss more on corporate transparency and define a global framework to help everyday citizen to enforce it better wherever they operate. Changing the context would certainly help to find better solutions.

But I’m afraid that very, very few will establish a link between personal privacy and transparency (democracy?) in the corporate world.

Martin, I thought that all the post were in both languages. I will have to check the English version.


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