Privacy has gone…

Do we have privacy anymore, do we have privacy with the internet now being so much part of our lives?

The opening keynote at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference 2010 was by Josie Fraser. She delivered an inspiring thought provoking keynote covering many different issues including digital identity, digital communities and communities of practice.

One of the key discussions was on privacy and the ability to control what I put online on services such as Twitter, this blog, Flickr or even (now and again) Facebook.

I can do lots to protect my identity.

I can decide what photographs I post to Flickr.

I can decide whether to include geo-data when I post to Twitter or use Audioboo.

What about the issue of other people infringing my privacy and putting details of my life online.

I can’t stop other people from broadcasting what I am doing…

I can’t stop them taking and posting photographs on me online.

I can’t stop them writing about what I am doing on services like Twitter and Facebook.

I can’t stop them uploading videos of me to YouTube.

I won’t be able to stop them adding geo-data to images or videos of me.

These services that people have used have take down policies, but unless the images, video or text are “not nice” then would the services taken them down because I don’t like them?

Of course I can ask, but they don’t need to say yes!

We seem to be at a stage where privacy is almost impossible to maintain if you go anywhere that others will be using cameras, online services such as Twitter or Facebook; even if I don’t use any of these things myself.

Josie in her keynote showed us the Ungooglable Man.

Does he exist? Probably?

Does he exist online? More than likely!

Even if he doesn’t use Myspace or Facebook, it is likely that friends and family do. They may place photographs of him online, they may talk about him, they may have videos of him. As a result he may be found online despite the fact that he is not online himself.

There are implications for those who have concerns about their own online identities that they may well have no power to stop others posting “stuff” about them online.

At the moment, many colleges are looking to work with learners on the concept of e-safety, part of which is digital identity. Colleges need to remind individuals that they are not the only person who needs to be concerned about what they post online, but that their friends and family need to be aware of the issues too.

Do you worry about what is posted about you online?

Do you know what others have posted about you online?

Should we care?

7 thoughts on “Privacy has gone…”

  1. Do I want to hide myself from the world?
    Can people not see me when I am walking on the road (actually I have a big built so I suspect…)?
    So is it the different if they can see static snippet of my life on the net?
    Are people same in real life compared to their digital foot prints?

    Are we really loosing our privacy?

    Many questions eh? Maybe NO fits all of them!

  2. Privacy or anonymity?

    It’s oft said that privacy is a relatively recent social invention which doesn’t exist globally either. Even now, people would see a difference between someone putting up online a picture of someone taken in a public place and a picture taken covertly in their own home or other space where one might have a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’

    Even in small villages/communes which apparently don’t have privacy, there is a social rule not to share everything publically.

    So is privacy really under threat, or is it anonymity which is the relatively modern development through the development of large conurbations which is disappearing again?

    The net began as an ‘other world’ where people adopted virtual lives and so enjoyed a perpetuation of the ‘face in a crowd’ anonymity. However, as the web becomes ever more social, people feel the need to connect with a ‘real person’ and so we willingly compromise our own shroud of anonymity by sharing details of our real selves (as well as those of other ‘real people’)

    So, I don’t see most of these things as a privacy issue but as a loss of anonymity and I don’t see this as a wholely ‘bad thing’ but as a compromise society as a whole seems willing to take – leaving those who would rather retain their masks to fight a rear guard defence, probably in vain.

  3. The This Is Me project published a workbook to help students think through these sorts of issues nearly two years ago. It is now in its second edition, and has several companion works covering the elderly, those starting careers, workers for NGOs, healthcare workers etc. The one for students can be downloaded for free from (or paper copies can be purchased at cost)

    It is possible to maintain a degree of privacy through a multi-faceted approach to digital identity (DI), but due to the tendency for material to persist on the Web, any accidental cross-over between facets is generally a ‘permanent’ feature. It is a, perhaps unfortunate, fact that most posts about you by someone else are likely to show you in a less than perfect light – they are, after all, more likely to share information which will entertain others, or warn against your bad behaviour than to take time to praise your better qualities.

    Society will take time to develop norms which meet the affordances given by the technology – and given the rapid pace of technological change, there is a good chance it may never catch up entirely. The more conservative elements of society are therefore likely to always be in a position to decry the ‘excesses’ of the early adopters. There is also a risk of a backlash against the type of online sharing we are seeing at the moment.

    One thing I hope will happen is that people will start to treat one another with more respect online, because of the persistence of information. Sadly, however, it seems to me that the spiteful behaviours one can readily see in forums, in online games and so on, are being replicated more ‘in the real world’, and adults are learning juvenile behaviour from the early teens – and vice versa. This sort of behaviour probably stems from a sense of anonymity as much as anything else, and from that perspective a loss of this ‘privacy’ may be a good thing. And I never thought I would be saying that…

  4. We have a ‘give and take’ relationship with the internet – it gives us a platform through which we can easily communicate globally, in return we sacrifice some of our privacy. What and how much we give away about ourselves is our decision, preferably an informed one!

    On the plus side the internet gives us fantastic opportunities to promote ourselves and collaborate with others. On the down side we are constantly tracked, susceptible to being victims of identity fraud and yes, people may put things online about us that we don’t like! While there’s not much we can do about this directly,surely then it’s better to respond through using the web to show ourselves in the way we want to be perceived? And educate our family,friends …and students?

    It’s a new world and our duty to prepare our students for it. myBrand ( – the product of a project aiming to help students manage their digital identity – hopes to get them started…

    {You could find the ‘UnGooglable Man’ – it would just take a bit longer! :o)}

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