“Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity” by danah boyd


For an excellent overview of the concepts and issues surrounding online privacy and publicity, check out danah boyd’s keynote speech from SXSWi for 2010.

Just because a large percentage of people engage in public does not mean that they don’t care about privacy. Pew found that 85% of adults want to control who has access to their personal information. You can read numbers in any which direction, but it’s dangerous to assume that people who share PII don’t care about privacy or people who make their data public don’t care about privacy. Doing so erases the context in which people are operating and the expectations that they have.

Wanting privacy is not about needing something to hide. It’s about wanting to maintain control. Often, privacy isn’t about hiding; it’s about creating space to open up. If you remember that privacy is about maintaining a sense of control, you can understand why Privacy is Not Dead. There are good reasons to engage in public; there always have been. But wanting to be in public doesn’t mean wanting to lose control.

Of particular note, see her analyses of why the launch of Google Buzz generated so much strong backlash, why people were uncomfortable when Facebook changed its privacy features in December 2009, and what’s interesting about ChatRoulette.

Photo credit: “Fingerprints” by kevindooley on Flickr