Social Media and Privacy

me_at_nhcdigi14

I am often asked about how people can protect their privacy in the age of social media. I was asked this at the NHC Digital Inclusion Conference in Manchester last Thursday, and I have been further prompted by something I saw on Twitter today from Paul Taylor.

My take on this is a bit different from the standard answers, I believe; and it is this:

  • Our modern concept of “privacy” is an anomaly in human history, which has probably only existed since the eighteenth century. Before this everyone lived in circumstances where there was no opportunity for privacy and they would have struggled to understand why it might be necessary. Social media, CCTV, and covert surveillance are all returning us to an earlier state in this respect;
  • Social media is changing society’s views about what privacy is. Eventually, we will stop being surprised and shocked at things other people do;
  • Society will get better at educating people how to protect the privacy of those things which are necessary to keep private, and many of us will learn from painful experience. That set of necessary things will be a much narrower field than what we currently think of as “privacy”.

I’d be very interested in your views on these issues