Privacy, Digital Literacy, Technology, Social Values

JP Rangaswami / BTImage by Ribbit Voice via Flickr
Confused Of Calcutta: JP Rangaswami: Musing About A New Kind Of Literacy: There’s a new game in town, where the surveillance is all digital. Where everything we do is monitored and recorded and analysed and used, ostensibly to help us. Ostensibly. A world of digital fingerprints...... We’ve gotten used to the idea of people “following” us in a digital world, subscribing to stuff we publish. Here we know that others are watching us. ..... Many of the things we do are recorded, and we know about it. Many of the things we do are recorded, and we give permission for that recording to take place. Some of the things we do are recorded with our permission and we don’t understand enough about it..... A new kind of literacy is needed.

This post by JP, the guy who introduced me to Twitter, (@jobsworth) touches upon a topic that took Facebook by storm not long back. So what is privacy? What does it mean today? Does it mean any different than it used to?

Privacy is not a technological breakthrough, it is a social value. The ongoing debate on privacy is an interesting intersection point between technology, its possibilities, and a fundamental social value.

We do want our search results to be smart. We want out smartphone to know us like it is nice to have our barber know us. It feels like a privilege. Bloggers wanting page hits are not exactly trying to hide, and that is most bloggers, almost all bloggers. Sharing of ideas is about getting out into the open. And perhaps that is why blogging in my personal favorite social media tool. You can't give me too many page hits. There is no ceiling I have in mind. I am not complaining.

But there are personal details I would not want to share, and I don't put those online. But my propensity to mostly stick to ideas means I don't have to get overly cautious. Come, let's talk.

Facebook's privacy options are not even that complicated. But the fact that the average person rose up in arms on the issue shows that which JP calls "literacy" is for real. People need to be educated about what is going on and what their options are.

People have the option to share. People have the option to not share. And they need to know. But just like universal literacy in the old sense was never really achieved, I don't see how digital literacy will be any different. In which case we have to be watchful of instances of abuse and possibly even criminal activity. I guess the online world is not all that different from its offline counterpart then.

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