Privacy’s vanishing; how screwed are we?

Veil
Photo by Matanya

The whole theory behind Mailana is that people's attitudes to privacy are changing; there's a younger generation willing to open up private information as long as they get something useful in return and retain control. I've written about this before, but a recent post by Marc Hedlund brought some of my thoughts into focus.

He's a self-confessed "privacy freak" but concedes that he's on the losing side of the battle. Selfishly speaking that's a great validation of the bet I'm making on my business, but what's interesting is his motivation. He says that people are blase about privacy online because they've never been stalked or the victim of identity theft. Once you go through that hell, like he has, you realize how useful all those old-fashioned notions really are.

That makes a lot of sense to me, those are black swan events; statistically speaking pretty unlikely to happen to you but devastatingly bad when they do. What's worse is that easy-going attitudes towards privacy create an environment where criminals will thrive, actually making it more likely you'll be attacked in the future. By handing over personal information and even passwords we're all picking up pennies in front of a steam-roller right now.

I'm still a fan of people's new freedom to trade some privacy for something they want more, but I'm acutely aware that people are care-free about that bargain because they've never been stung. A lot of people are going to get hurt before we reach a new equilibrium, with widely understood ground rules for what's acceptable and safe.

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