Saturday, March 13, 2010

SXSW10: Opening Remarks: Privacy and Publicity

The SXSW Interactive Festival is very excited that danah boyd will serve as the Opening Speaker for the 2010 event. One of the world's foremost authorities on social networks, boyd works at Microsoft Research New England and also serves as a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society. boyd recently completed her PhD in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley.

danah boyd – Microsoft Research

Before I begin let me just say that I love danah boyd. She is brilliant and inspiring. You can follow her blog here or on twitter @zephoria.

How does social media transform society and make visible about humanity? There are not necessarily extremes, there is much more nuance and detail.

There are a set of puzzles that are critical to social media and a lot of that has to do about privacy and publicity.

No matter how many times a privileged straight white male tells you that privacy is dead, this is not true. People care about it online and offline, But what it means is about having control about how info flows, understand a social setting, understand what the architecture ill allow you to do and negotiate within that.

When they feel that they don't have control they scream privacy foul.

Privacy Fail #1: Google Buzz

Google made a series on non technical mistakes. Here's what they did wrong:
1. They got themselves into trouble by integrating a public facing system into tone of the most private systems available (email). You are juxtaposing private and public. Users believed their email was being exposed. It created an unnecessary panic.

2. Google assumed they would opt out of Buzz. More and more tech companies are doing this and then back peddling. Many users clicked through to see what it was about. When they don;t know the value prop they just accepted defaults. It's easier for users to flip out than undo things. There was confusion. If you want things to go viral you need to help users understand the value and invite them to contribute their content and networks But don;t throw them into the water and hope they can swim.

3. Google told users what they thought they wanted them to hear. But they ruined a social ritual. For example "asl" in a chat room. There's something radically different to responding to asl and looking at a profile and creating a conversation about it. Norms are to ask users to share their friends. It's the social ritual of letting them know how this info is going to be acquired.

Uncanny valley--when something is close enough real but not real and it is creepy. Google did this. There is a difference between what sociologists consider social behavioral networks and what we have in tech which is articulated networks via an address book or facebook. They collapsed articulated networks and assumed they were behavioral networks.

Contextual integrity is essential for people to understand a space. Things aren't always meant to be connected.

What happens when people talk about privacy:

1. Think abut a conversation with a close friend. You may think of it as private but they may tell something else. You learn trust over time. We don't always know how to manage privacy.

2. We hold people and architecture as being accountable for privacy, giving us input as to where privacy exists. There's always the possibility of eavesdroppers. People try to make sense of what is going on, they make mental models. They need to know this because they need to know how to best behave.

It's hard to figure out what the norms are in online networks. There are fundamental differences: replicability scalability...(?)

Security through obscurity is not as ridiculous as it may seam.

Digital architecyre doens;t just have ears it has a mouth. System may change when it becomes mainstream. People don't always know how to handle whaen technology changes.

Privacy Fail #2: Facebook asks users to consider changes to privacy settings (default was everyone)

Have yet to find a person who knew what their privacy settings were. Facebook was built on a foundation of privacy. 35% opted out of privacy but this is not necessarily accurate.

By arguing that privacy is dead technologists justify making data public. I worry about the public-azation process and who will get caught in the crossfire.

Here are the differences:

1. Personally Identifiable Information and Personally Embarassing Information
2. We're seeing a switch between private by default public by effort and public by default, private by effort
3. People account for what they have to lose but also what they have to gain (influences by age and life stage and life goals). People make these calculations
4. People make material publicly available but they don't necessarily want everyone to see it. t's harder to be private online. Youth doesn't want to be seen by those with power over the
5. Just because people want something to be publicly accessible doesn't mean they want it to be publicized. When we make something public more public it's like having paparazzi on them.

Publicity and Celebrity

People are not engaging Twitter and Facebook in same ways. FB is about communicating with people you know, Twitter is about wanting to obtain audiences or following those with audiences. Twitter trending topics: exogenous (external factors) and indogenous (internal factors).

Not just tweens and teens. Black community. Racism in twitter on night of BET awards, enforced idea that not everyone is welcome in public space. Who has the right to be in public spaces? With privilege it's easy to take advantage of things, for example:

1. I believe I have the right to challenge authority, have the right to be seen and heard
2. I can embrace public default setting without too many consequences
3. I can seek publicity on my own accord without fear

How public is your kids teacher allowed to be online? Offline we know how to switch into teacher mode but online there is no way to make that switch. We don't live in a world where everything is equal. Pubic by default environment we are creating is not the great democratizer and just because we have technology does not guarantee voice or publicity.

It's bringing back to age old days of the web, this is about randomness and strangers. Speaks to the old days of the web but interesting to see what happens when it hits mainstream. May be a fad but the idea of publicity and privacy is not.

What you can do with this information:
1. For technologists: There's no magical formula for understanding they are living things, the crux of humanity. You're creating living code. You have to understand your user and its an evolving process.
2. For parents:figure out how to evolve what the core essence of privacy is. The key to guiding teenagers and adults is asking questions: what are you trying to achieve, do you want people to hear, what if it is misinterpreted.
3. For marketing and analysts: Just because you can see someone doesn't mean you can and you can't always know what is going on.

Pew: 85% of adults want control over their information. Wanting privacy is not about hiding but about creating space to open up it's about control. There are good reasons to be in pubic and in private. Sometimes the more you put out afford you privacy.

Need to think through the implications of what you are doing.

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