Here is an interesting interview with John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the BBC’s Maggie Shiels. Perry Barlow draws a distinction between the need for privacy and that for transparency. He also discusses how firms like Google alter the way in which we perceive and consequently make decisions based on the information to which we are exposed (a theme common to Jaron Lanier’s book, You Are Not A Gadget).
His perspective on privacy is interesting. He argues that, however much we may prefer it not to be so, individual privacy is going away and likens that to a pre second world war era (I suspect that may really be even earlier) when individual privacy of the type we now expect was unheard of: people lived in smaller, closer communities where everyone knew everyone else’s business anyway. He may well be right, uncomfortable though it is: the extensive privacy we have come to value in recent generations is maybe just the flip-side of the breakdown in society which we are concerned about.
It might be tempting to ask if the reverse could also be true: that decreasing privacy across the digital community will lead to a strengthening digital society. Yesterday’s tabloid tale of the suicide note ignored by Facebook friends would argue against that and I’m not sure that bonds will work that way (they might). However, the rebuilding of local communities arising from reduced commuting, increased levels of working from home and greater ability to live where you want not where you work, may well achieve that.