Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I am considering removing myself from Facebook.

I am considering removing myself from Facebook in light of their new privacy settings and ability to keep and share information with 3rd party companies. My activity will be limited and will eventually end. As most of my friends and former Lotus/IBM colleagues know, when I researched on-line communities of interest from 1995 to 2001 and created InterCommunity (a pre-Facebook of the mid-90s that was too early), my main concern back then and now is still the same; privacy! I also believe that Facebook provides enough privacy control for its users. Nonetheless the issue remains that they have the information and not the users. Unless serious legislation is pass to protect our privacy, or that we finally use the internet for what it was meant to be instead of a next generation-mainframe, I fear that trust can't be given to Facebook, Google and other personal information custodians.


Mikel Manitius said...

I did not join for a very long time because of this issue.

In the end I decided to join, but I provide them zero personal data. Even my birthday is fake.

David said...

Privacy is an interesting concept: a perceived right to keep data hidden from others eyes. It is not actually the data that can be divulged that scares us, it is the discrimination that we face if it is revealed.

If you are afraid of what the social networks and search engines know about you, think about what your bank and favorite merchants know ... look at the state of North Carolina v. Amazon and their request for records of citizen's purchases for the past seven years.

Part of the promise of the knowledge/scientific society is that we build on the foundations of others and ourselves to learn better models of our world. Models which help to predict and ultimately protect our society from crises.

IT and statistical modeling promised that it would help us create relevant linkages between varied data repositories to create better models. However, once we have good statistical metrics then we need to address the next issue.

The issue of discrimination based on a modeled metric needs to be resolved. As an example if the Human Genome Project identifies a risky set of characteristics that indicate a high likelihood of short lifespan, is it ethical and ultimately legal to prevent individuals with these characteristics from contracting long term insured financing? Security and profitability argue that it should be legal to reduce risks, but do we want a society where even relevant risks can prevent people from participating?

In one sense the social networks and search engines are fulfilling the prerequisite linkages, however the statistical tools to evaluate the relevance of the links are not here yet.
I believe that the linkages they provide will at some point be usable to model the individual psychologically, just as genome research is mapping what causes my receding hair. However I also believe that our modeling efforts are not that sophisticated at this time and wont be for a while longer.

The question should not be whether or how much we should have to hide to skew the modeling effort, but rather society should decide whether we find the discrimination ethical or not and let our laws follow.

Once we started seeking knowledge by correlating databases and converting libraries into searchable electronic data repositories, the genie that was hiding us from scrutiny escaped and now society needs to balance the security and discrimination question to minimize abuses.

Thierry Hubert said...

I truly appreciate your detailed comment and insight on privacy and discrimination. I share your observations and concerns. We need to expect and accept that information will be correlated to profile and predict behavioral patterns for the purpose of commerce and government intelligence. It is unavoidable and as long as we are in a democracy, we have a venue to gradually protect our rights. We clearly are in the infancy of a new social, governance and legal paradigm.