The interwebs have shown us that we humans do not always see the same thing in the same way. Is it a blue dress? Or, a white dress? You be the judge.
The latest buzzword to cross the interwebs is privacy. Everybody is doing privacy these days and everybody has a different definition. Apple made privacy a very public issue and, as always, the technology world follows Apple’s lead.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has touted the company’s privacy efforts only to be scolded by Google’s CEO and Facebook’s CEO because, they, too, are champions of privacy.
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively.
Fair enough, but what does it mean? Radio stations and TV stations talk demographics in their ratings, companies with catalogs from trees gathered information about you, your address, your income, and buying habits.
Move along. Nothing to see here.
What it means to be private and privacy seem to have changed in recent.
The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share common themes. When something is private to a person, it usually means that something is inherently special or sensitive to them.
Oh, so I get to define privacy, right?
Privacy to me means my neighbors cannot and should not peer into my bedroom, that nobody should listen in on my phone calls or read my mail and email, and, to me, it means that while I’m online I do not want entities to track which websites I visit and when, or to track what I search for.
The domain of privacy partially overlaps with security (confidentiality), which can include the concepts of appropriate use, as well as protection of information.
To be realistic, we’re human and we live in complicated times and within dynamic societies so information about me is bound to spill over into the public arena. I cannot be so private that I won’t pay taxes or use public facilities or engage with others.
Yet, I don’t want others to take information about me without my expressed written consent. Or, at least, a click; or some notification as to what information is being taken and how it will be used.
The right not to be subjected to unsanctioned invasions of privacy by the government, corporations or individuals is part of many countries’ privacy laws, and in some cases, constitutions.
Google and Facebook have similar business models. They sell advertising. To get to their levels of profitability they have to gather data about those being advertised to, and they do that by providing free software and services to users in exchange for private information being given and gathered.
Apple’s business model is different. Apple sells hardware and services and gathers information, too, but such data is used far differently than Google, Facebook, Amazon et al. Apple uses what they learn from customers to enhance and improve products and do not use it to alter my personal buying habits or change my political affiliations.
Advertisers do just that and they use personal user information gathered by Google, Facebook, Amazon and others in an insidious method to alter behavior.
Privacy may be voluntarily sacrificed, normally in exchange for perceived benefits and very often with specific dangers and losses, although this is a very strategic view of human relationships. For example, people may be ready to reveal their name, if that allows them to promote trust by others and thus build meaningful social relations. Research shows that people are more willing to voluntarily sacrifice privacy if the data gatherer is seen to be transparent as to what information is gathered and how it is used.
Privacy as an issue is nothing new but when Google, Facebook, Amazon et al jump on the privacy bandwagon and wave the privacy flag while continuing their efforts to cull data from users, then something has gone wrong with the world.