Who"s davidlian?

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davidlian is an ultra-geeky chinese dude that works for a technology PR agency. He loves fiddling with techno-toys, plays Warhammer 40K, and shoots pictures wherever he goes. Here, he rants about PR, Technology and anything else. Don't expect balance and un-biased, he ain't no journalist. Anything said on this blog are solely davidlian's personal views. Don't confuse them with company mantra, client's views or views of any organisation he may be part of.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Extinct: private people

I was having lunch on Wednesday with two very intelligent people who are really involved with the tech industry, and at some point, the conversation wandered onto the issue of privacy.

"It's impossible to be private anymore" was the sentiment shared. And that's, quite possibly, entirely true. Not that complete privacy was ever an option to begin with - unless of course you lived on your own island.

Now, many sites have privacy policies and allow you certain privacy controls - e.g. hiding your email, or real name. But, today, with more and more people going online and not everyone (actually mostly everyone) being savvy about privacy on the net, you pretty much don't have control over your privacy anymore.

Case in point:

  • Google Map's Street View feature has courted controversy when people realised that this feature could randomly capture you at a location and allow millions of internet users to access it. See this.
  • On Facebook, you don't even have to be a member for your friend to tag you in a picture, telling everyone your name and showing them how you look. Of course, this might just be a loop-hole until Facebook fixes it. But how many of these loopholes have there been / will there be?
That's just two examples off the top of my head. The point is, you can't be absolutely private anymore. Search is getting better, and if you can't be googled or cuiled yet, you pretty soon will. So how do we adapt to this changing world? Here's my two cents:

  1. Realise that if ever anyone wants to find out about you, they probably can find something online. Just not everything. Accept that you have your 'public' side now.
  2. Be very careful how you take pictures and who you take pictures with. Unflattering pictures have a tendency to appear on the web.
  3. Think thoroughly before you create information, and then think again before you put it on the web. Even simple things like geo-tagging, think if you want to geo-tag a picture of your home and then upload it to Flickr? What seems like a harmless use of technology and social sharing, might be sinisterly used to plan a crime. When you create information, you create the potential for it to be put into the wrong hands.
  4. Along the lines of the last point, remember that what gets online, stays online. There a many, many ways of digging up stuff on the internet.

Just a last word on privacy (or, the concept of): I think it's going to be dead pretty soon. With Web 2.0 and the emergence of "social media" more and more people have started putting their lives on the internet and in so doing, made themselves "public figures" (with all of 6 fans). I'm one of them. So really, on this topic, I think what's needed is not just tighter policies and better enforcement but a change of general mindset and an overall awareness.

After all, you should always assume your next employer is going to cuil you and read your blog. :)


suanie said...

internet can be a wonderful and scary thing

Anonymous said...

Jan, who I met at Barcamp kept bringing up the issue of privacy during the Day 2 sessions. His point is that while many online savvy people may know how to control how much of their private lives get exposed online, most people don't. Maybe they should teach privacy in kindergarten..

davidlian said...

@Suan: Yes... I have a good amount of fear for what the Internet will become.
@blogjunkie: Privacy IS becoming a big concern. But I guess the point is, we can't control it no longer. GPS and Satellite photography are just two of the ways (very Minority-Report'ish) that we can lose our privacy without intending to lose it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, technology advancement does make our information to be more easily trackable / discoverable. But I still believe privacy, for those within our boundary, can be controlled.

blogjunkie has roughly pointed out how people can minimize their private life being exposed.

I used to blog about my personal life online and I have never been doing it for 2 years now. Although you can still see some of my personal footprints in Facebook and Twitter, I'm actually aware of what the eyes of the world are seeing.

And yea.. :) Whenever I received a resume, I would dig that person out from Google, Friendster, Facebook, etc.

- yc