People are still coming to terms with the lack of privacy that social media and the online world have brought. Some are happy with the fact that ‘privacy is no longer the social norm’ (to quote Mark Zuckerberg). However for many more of us the fact that our every online move is tracked (whether by large companies or the NSA) is a big worry. But at the moment, the usefulness of free online services, such as search and social media, outweigh the intrusion. After all, it is confined to the virtual world and provided you don’t do anything stupid, like give out your house number on Facebook, you can keep your real life separate from the web.
But the shrinking size of cameras, and the forthcoming launch of Google Glass, promise to merge the offline and online worlds like never before. Whether deliberately or by accident you can photograph and share images, video and audio in real time, without the knowledge of those around you. Combining this with the vast store of digital information on the web enables people and places to be easily identified, tagged and shared. So far Google Glass has privacy safeguards built in – it bans facial recognition apps and requires either a voice command or tapping the top of the glasses to take a photo. However given that there is already a hack to take photos by winking, I can see developers getting round this all too easily.
Should we be scared? The normal argument trotted out by those in favour of increased surveillance is that only the guilty or those with something to hide should be worried. And obviously the ability for the police to identify criminals and terrorists is a major positive of ubiquitous cameras. But what about the person who happens to be snapped where he or she isn’t expected to be – on their way back from a secret rendezvous with a lover, or a job interview that they don’t want their existing employer to know about? The difference between official surveillance, where access to the pictures is tightly controlled, and the world of personal photo sharing, is that everyone can see everything, without safeguards to limit access. There’s already issues with unauthorised photos taken upskirt or down blouse by low lifes with camera phones. Add in facial recognition to these, enabling the victims to be identified, and it makes the whole practice much more sinister.
For me the even more disturbing thought is what businesses can do with this data. Advertisers already have access to your location, your past browsing history and what you have previously bought. Add in what you are looking at, and your reaction to it, and it gives a 360 degree view of your behaviour. Spend five minutes idly staring at a poster at a bus stop? Look at a pair of jeans in a shop window? Expect it to be noted and used to sell to you.
Don’t get me wrong, the proliferation of personal cameras can be a good thing. They can be used to provide information on the world around us – want to know what that plant is or what bird is singing nearby? Google Glass can help. They benefit dementia patients, enabling them to fill in the gaps in their worsening memory. Personal cameras provide a tamper-proof record of conversations that can prevent litigation against doctors, couriers or the police. But in my opinion, the negatives outweigh the positives.
What is needed is a fundamental review of privacy and how it is enforced. And that needs to happen now, before Google Glass and its competitors hit the streets and become mass-market. Social media failed to do this – there privacy was an add on rather than built in from the start and this has had a major impact on how our personal data is shared. When it comes to something even more personal, what we see and what we hear, governments and businesses must act now to guarantee privacy before it is too late.
November 20, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Marketing, Social Media | cameras, Facebook, Google, Google Glass, Mark Zuckerberg, Privacy, Searching, social media, surveillance, YouTube | Leave a comment
We’ve now had the first three weeks of the Leveson enquiry into journalistic ethics. Created after the scale of phone hacking at the News of the World was uncovered, we’ve seen a steady stream of both celebrities and those caught up in news stories appear to give their testimony. And in many cases the level of press intrusion has been horrifying – for example the News of the World sent a reporter posing as a doctor to the hospital where Anne Diamondgave birth and offered her nanny £30,000 for a story.
I’ve talked about the PR implications of phone hacking for the Murdoch empire in the past. In fact the enquiry so far is actually helping the rehabilitation process for both James and Rupert. All of the perpetrators of phone hacking and dubious ethical behaviour who were at News International at an operational level have now left, the News of the World itself has been shut down and the spotlight is widening onto other news organisations and if they used similar tactics. So whatever your views on the Murdochs the short term pain, grovelling apologies and low profile are actually delivering the results.
Another point that struck me about some of the witnesses, such as Paul McMullan, former News of the World features editor, was their similarities in outlook to many involved in social media when it came to the question of privacy. I’ve heard internet entrepreneurs such as Ted Shelton state that there is no gap between public and private life anymore, which he sees as a force for good that makes people more reflective about their actions. McMullan put it much more baldly and crudely – “Privacy is for paedos, fundamentally. No-one else needs it. Privacy is evil. It brings out the worse qualities in people. It brings out hypocrisy.”
I’d disagree – everyone is entitled to a private life on or off-line but it is vital to balance this with the public interest. There are plenty of politicians who would like to muzzle investigative journalism – forgetting how it has uncovered genuine scandals, including, for those with short memories, the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone that led directly to this enquiry. In an era where more and more of our lives are carried out in the public eye all of us need protection – but we need to take responsibility over our own actions on the web rather than simply criticising journalists.
- Paul McMullan lays bare newspaper dark arts at Leveson inquiry (guardian.co.uk)
- Paul McMullan: Andy Coulson ‘brought hacking culture to News of the World’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Privacy is for paedos’: The world according to Paul (smh.com.au)
December 5, 2011 Posted by Chris Measures | PR, Social Media | Anne Diamond, News International, News of the World, News of the World phone hacking affair, Privacy, Rupert Murdoch, social media, Ted Shelton | 2 Comments
I’ve previously blogged about how social media is leading people to give away a lot more of their personal details than in the past, often unknowingly. This then triggers a backlash (such as with Facebook’s recent face recognition update), but the general trend is towards openness/lack of privacy (delete depending on your viewpoint).
Discussions at last week’s CUTEC Technology Ventures Conference brought this topic to the fore. Serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ted Shelton shared his views on innovation, pointing out that the three driving forces of social, mobile and cloud are driving true market disruption. But what caught my attention was his later, bold statement – There is no gap between public and private life anymore. Ted sees this as a force for good – making people more reflective about their private actions as they directly impinge on their public persona. And the more you share, the more people will share back and the faster you will learn.
I agree with the positives, but there are a number of issues that trouble me. First off, I think people are becoming less, rather than more reflective – happily sharing private information that either directly, negatively impacts their lives or alternatively bores people to death. And current technology doesn’t give you the ability or time to build and demonstrate your complete persona online. You have to show just parts of it – your Twitter profile is a few lines, not the length of War and Peace, meaning that by default you need to focus different social networks on particular traits or areas of your life. So, for now at least I’ll stick to partitioning my public and private life – to avoid embarrassment if nothing else.
- Where’s the best place for Innovation? (measuresconsulting.wordpress.com)
- Privacy worries? Google shouldn’t be your biggest fear (zdnet.com)
Would you write down and leave your personal details in a public place where you knew they could easily be found? Excepting prostitutes putting their calling cards in phone boxes the answer for most of us would be a resounding no.
But in the online world we simply don’t apply the same levels of care. People sign up to a whole range of services that promise to connect us and make our lives easier by sharing our details with our friends. Often the default setting is privacy-unfriendly – with few people bothering/knowing how to change it.
That’s why the news that Facebook is retreating on its plans to share user addresses and phone numbers with external sites is not a road to Damascus moment for the social media behemoth. Most information sharing, on Facebook and plenty of other sites is still opt-out rather than opt-in, meaning what you did last holiday in Ibiza is easy enough for the world to see, now and forever.
All conversations/transactions are about giving away some privacy for a reward – whether a discount on your shopping from loyalty cards or simply making life easier by handing over your email address. However as digital channels take over we need to make it easier for people to protect their information online with defined, agreed industry standards that everyone understands. Otherwise the internet essentially becomes a Soho phone box – but with our intimate details on the calling card.
- Facebook Gives Apps Your Phone Number And Address, No Opt Out (zdnet.com)
- Facebook wants to share your contact details (bigbrotherwatch.org.uk)
- Facebook Halts Phone & Address Sharing (For Now) (mashable.com)
- Facebook U-turns on data sharing (bbc.co.uk)
- Facebook & Identity: The Continued Push Toward Becoming Your One True Login (readwriteweb.com)
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About meI'm Chris Measures and I've spent the last 18 years creating and implementing PR and marketing campaigns for technology companies. I've worked with everyone from large quoted companies to fast growth start-ups, giving me unrivalled experience and ideas. I'm now director of Measures Consulting, an agency that uses this expertise to deliver PR and marketing success for technology businesses.
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