Clay Shirky Says Privacy Has Been a Convenience of Inconvenience

Clay Shirky, one of the foremost thinkers regarding the social web and the cognitive surplus, recently gave a talk at the Web 2.0 Conference in NYC about information overload.

At about 8:25 in, Shirky begins to talk about privacy and how Facebook has brought controversy and awareness of personal privacy to the surface.  What he concludes from the well-known phenomenon of the public Facebook relationship break-up is that, while Facebook has excellent privacy controls, people have not yet adapted to having to actively manage their privacy.  Heretofore, privacy was managed for us because it was too inconvenient to violate peoples’ privacy by eavesdropping on the street or in a restaurant.

Now it’s no longer difficult to follow peoples’ lifestreams; “outbound information flows” are increasing with social networking tools and microblogging.  Natural barriers are disappearing.

Societies and cultures will have to adapt to this changing environment.  The online society is at the forefront of this change, so it’s instructive to study this first, but yes, we will be looking at each of the BRIC countries and how they will adapt, too.

  • @Ben: Ponnurangam Kumaraguru at the Carnegie Mellon University is doing some interesting work on online privacy in developing countries. You may want to read some of his research papers and speak to him.