For whatever reason, privacy has become an increasingly dominant theme for me recently. And judging by the number of newspaper articles, radio shows, blog posts and presentations about privacy, there are lots of other people thinking about it has well.
It is interesting to get a handle on why privacy is taking more of the spotlight given online privacy is a new or sexy topic. One explanation may be the number of social media services that make it easy to share information publicly, and how comfortable people have become in sharing the details of their personal and professional lives. What was once private information or limited to a few family members is now being broadcast to everyone and anyone. The personal privacy barriers are voluntarily coming down.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Flickr or Foursquare, the amount of personal information about what you’re doing, buying, seeing, eating and located has become a digital tsunami.
The big question is why is public disclosure has been so enthusiastically embraced? Is it vanity to show how smart we are in the choices we make on a daily basis? Is it personal branding to create a perception of who you are or who you want to be? Or is it anxiety in which people feel unheard and isolated so social media gives them a user-friendly public broadcasting vehicle?
It’s not that I think public disclosure is a bad thing; it’s the level of disclosure that seems out of control. It’s so easy to talk about stuff publicly that many people never self-edit themselves for posting, updating, tweeting or checking in. These days personal routines evolve around eating, breathing and personal updates to the world.
I think the focus on privacy is not going to have much of an impact on what people do online but it’s important to pay more attention to privacy to build awareness of how people are behaving and how they should behave. If anything, the focus on privacy may encourage some people to think twice before telling the world everything they’re doing.