Modeling Transparency, Openness, and Privacy

Since I am specifically studying what the internet will look like within the BRIC countries in terms of privacy, openness, and transparency, I thought it would be best to lay out a matrix of those three phases plotted versus five key social spheres, which maybe I could call “accountability arenas”.  Since there’s no good way to insert a matrix here without using SlideShare or an image, I’ll just list the results here:


  • Personal: Libertarianism, isolationism, anonymity
  • Sexual: Don’t ask, don’t tell
  • Health: Non-contagion/non-preventative care
  • Financial: Shadow market pools, corruption
  • Political: Weak communities, divided citizens, big money interests, oligarchy


  • Personal: Gossip, egotism, rumor
  • Sexual: Social stigma, whorishness
  • Health: Gossip, rumor (e.g. AIDS & promiscuity)
  • Financial: Scams, blackmail
  • Political: No consensus, partisanship, retribution

Transparency (Ideal)

  • Personal: Self-actualization, self-expression
  • Sexual: Equal rights, tolerance
  • Health: Public health/safety
  • Financial:  Fair markets
  • Political: Bill of rights, consensus-making


  • Privacy: Strong encryption, opacity, obstruction
  • Openness: Low transaction costs, expectation of safety
  • Transparency: Mutual sharing, trust


  • Privacy: Information asymmetry
  • Openness: Noise, lack of context, violation of social norms
  • Transparency: Matched interests, choice

I have published to a spreadsheet the same data in tabular form at Google Docs.

Can you think of other accountability arenas or other characteristics within each?  The “Requires” and “Breeds” sections should be interpreted as “Privacy Requires x” and “Privacy Breeds y”.

Once I begin to study the BRIC countries individually more, I can plot each country as a point on a graph where the x-axis swings from privacy to openness and the y-axis represents rule of law.  The point that is plotted might show where the country stands with regards to transparency.

Obviously this model is not precise and might not represent any discernable differences between online life and offline life.  So if you have suggestions, please write a comment.

I have just finished reading Daniel Solove’s “The Future of Reputation” and Dennis Bailey’s “The Open Society Paradox”.  I also intend on re-reading David Brin’s “The Transparent Society”, and am currently reading Jonathan Zittrain’s “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It”.  All these books deal with the never-ending conflict between openness and closedness in various states.  I’ll report on what I got out of these books a little later.  What’s interesting is that according to the model, the best transparency in each accountability arena corresponds with good governance theories as well as the most widely accomodating values and virtues of judicial and moral systems.