Sunday, December 6, 2009

Is privacy dead?

According to CNN, we have reached "The End of Privacy" and Andrea Dimaio of Gartner tells us privacy is "an illusion." This is a sentiment I've seen expressed more and more often the last few years. I think this belief comes from a misunderstanding of what privacy is. Privacy is not being hidden. The best definition I've seen for privacy, what I consider privacy, is from the terms of service of emailmarketingpro.org. According to them, privacy is:

The quality or condition of being free from unsanctioned intrusion. Person should be sure that the personal information provided will not be used in any other purposes then those the user needs.


Whether or not they abide by that definition I couldn't say, but I like it. Bob Blakely of the Burton Group identity blog has a different, but related, take on privacy. In his entry, "Gartner Gets Privacy Dead Wrong" he tells us that privacy does not equal secrecy. As long as you don't tell anyone your information, you don't have a privacy problem. Once you tell information to someone, then you have a privacy problem.

That makes a lot of sense. Privacy doesn't involve keeping things secret, but controlling who accesses them, and how. I like that idea, and it dovetails nicely with the emailmarketingpro definition. One of the problems with social networks is that people surrender too much control over their information. Well it turns out that it doesn't have to be that way, and Facebook is putting more safeguards in place for people to use to give them even more control over who sees their information. The trick is getting users to use the controls.

I can't make people use them, but I can make the information readily available. Over the next few days I'll be looking at some of the ways you can control your information on Facebook. Nothing can protect you completely, but the first step to greater security is controlling how others access your data.