Privacy Crisis

Information and methods to process it appear much faster than any regulatory norms.

This fact is clearly evident nowadays. And a feeling of upcoming large scale privacy crisis emerges quite often. Information is here so why not to reason about it. Semantic web technologies seem to be a significant step in this direction. Although the power of automated reasoning and Internet surveillance is not largely available yet, social network users have already faced privacy issues.

For me interesting thing is not how to react on this, but rather to analyze the reasons such issues came up.

In basics, two necessary elements are the need to publish information and the ability to find and process it. First one is very intriguing. Why people publish so many information about themselves? I suppose there at least two grand illusions that cause people to do that:

  • First, everybody today is special. 6+ billions of centres of universe. And when one is a genius he will be willing to tell his story, to express himself, or at least to show off. All kinds of tools for self-expression are available and are just waiting for the next special person. Everything is simple — just push the buttons, click links — produce information. I hardly believe that people really think about information they produce, when there is a chance to think about self expression.
  • Second, we need many conversations. I don’t believe in this at all. Conversations serve as a cover for down-to-earth interests. How many true friends people have in average? Zero? One? Now what about hundreds of online friends? I think, on a large scale, this is just a game where everybody is using everybody to derive benefits. And more than 90% of conversations is trash messing up our brains.

So, the crisis is indeed not in vulnerability and availability of information, but in the publishing fever. If fever will make a progress the probability of a large scale privacy crisis will grow too.

My advice is simple. If you want your private information to be safe, do not publish it. That’s all.

But if you can’t give up benefits of publishing, be prepared. Be prepared that you won’t be able to change anything when your information will be used in a way you haven’t planned. And, most likely, regulatory norms will not be able to protect you.

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