Blown To Bits

Social Computing and Privacy

Monday, December 1st, 2008 by Harry Lewis

The New York Times had an excellent story yesterday,¬†You’re Leaving a Digital Trail. What About Privacy? It has many of the usual themes — young people don’t value their privacy very much, especially if they get social connections in exchange for it. There is an interesting angle about how businesses are discovering the efficiencies that result from better interactions between workers, so this research is turning into a business management tool. But what I find most interesting is the orientation of the researchers doing this work.

“For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,‚Äù Dr. [Thomas] Malone [director of the M.I.T. Center for Collective Intelligence]¬†said. ‚ÄúIn some sense we‚Äôre becoming a global village. Privacy¬†may turn out to have become an anomaly.‚Äù

I wonder — is that a validated fact of anthropology? Whether it is or it isn’t, isn’t it also a statement with vast political implications in a nation dedicated to individual rights?

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