Friday, May 22, 2009

Privacy Schmivacy

Just came across an interesting piece from John Markhoff in the NY Times that was published about 6 months ago titled, "You're Leaving a Digital Trail. What About Privacy?"

Long-time Digital Sea Changers will know privacy is a topic near and dear to my heart (and one that I firmly believe has a price).

In his story, Markhoff covers an MIT project in which students agreed to "swap their privacy for smartphones that generate digital trails to be beamed to a central computer."

Markhoff goes on to share a wide range of applications of consumer data in this brave new world from monitoring hot nightclubs based on taxi activity to predictly flu outbreaks using Google search data.

Prudently, Markhoff covers the potential downside of such data disclosure -- eg, insurance companies declining coverage based on disease-related search queries or police identifying protestors via social network connections.

But I think this quote from one of the MIT students involved in the smartphone study says it all -- "The way I see it, we all have Facebook pages, we all have e-mail and Web sites and blogs. This is a drop in the bucket in terms of privacy."

Reminds me of a quip I made in my 2007 Search Insider column, "Should We Fear Ambient Findability?" -- "Curtains? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Curtains."

The article ends with a quote from Dr. Thomas Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, saying, "In some sense we're becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly."

All in all, you're just another brick in the wall, my friends...

You're just another brick in the Wall

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