Saturday, May 22, 2010

FB privacy: "out of context"

Is context that important? I do think so; context defines if someone slicing somebody else’s throat open with a knife is committing a hideous crime or saving a life through an emergency tracheotomy; context makes a big difference when my silly behavior happens in the privacy of my home and company of my child versus in a company holiday party after consuming one wine glass too many, context defines if sharing my social security number is a necessary step (i.e. to obtain the credit necessary to buy the house of my dreams) or a silly move (i.e. to help that gentle Nigerian prince that keeps emailing me)…

Danah Boyd expressed it perfectly (and eloquently) at SXSW; here the transcript of her talk: (I encourage you to read this; you will get more from it that from this post)

Paraphrasing a small subset of Danah’s points:

· Privacy and Context are deeply interrelated; privacy is not a binary concept.. is about what is the right context in which an specific set of data can flow.

· In our daily lives we all make calculated judgments evaluating the context and adjusting our behavior accordingly.

· The problem arises when those judgments fail, or when someone (i.e Facebook) changes the rules on us; and suddenly the “data” (behavior, information, etc.) we are sharing happens to be “inappropriate” because the context has changed (or was incorrectly estimated).

I have seen plenty of information in my Facebook newsfeed I wish I hadn't that I am certain is proper and justified... in the right context.. the two key issues with Facebook are: 1) They have not made it easy to define and operate within clearly delimited “Contexts” and 2) They keep changing the rules on us, making it way to easy to eliminate the boundaries (if any) that we have set among our "Contexts".

The interesting thing is that it is in Facebook’s best interest to address this; they should not risk us all stopping our sharing (or watering it down) due to our lack of certainty that we will be able to EASILY and CONSISTENTLY control the Context in which we share, and with that who gets to see what of the data we share at any point in time.

What do you think?

Filiberto Selvas


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