Pop-Psychology and Privacy

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a popular tool for many pop-psych discussions, also provides a useful framework for discussing privacy. The privacy concerns that I described in my previous post can be mapped to Maslow’s Hierarchy as: Will I be harmed? => Safety Will my property be damaged or taken? => Safety Will others think bad of me? => Esteem Will I be bothered by people trying to sell me stuff? => Self Actualization Let’s think about that last one. Is Self Actualization a useful label for my concern about being bothered? I do think that being bothered takes my attention and resources away from my prime task of being the best “Dwight Irving” that I can be. It‘s interesting that there is no privacy concern in my list that can be related to the levels of Physiological, Love and Belonging, or Self-Transcendence. Given those gaps, I wonder if I’m missing something. Should “Publicy” and “Publicness” (see Stowe Boyd and Jeff Jarvis ) be considered as the privacy concepts that come in at the Self-Transcendence level? Some think so. Even if Publicness and Publicy should be the goals of my quest for enlightenment, I’d rather make that decision myself by controlling the release of my data, than to let others grab my data and make the decision for...

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Facebook Privacy Settings

I’m working through Facebook’s Privacy settings this morning as part of a new design and engineering project. Johnny Lang in the background singing “Good Morning Schoolgirl” seems very apropos. Have you taken the time to look through your Facebook settings lately? While I expected most of what I saw, what really struck me as weird were the permissions that may be allowed for friends-of-friends, and for the apps that friends install. Like many others, I personally know all of my Facebook friends. Like most others who use Facebook, I have friended some who are only brief acquaintances. Even of those friends that I know well, I don’t have a lot of trust in their ability to identify online scams and data harvestors. And given what little trust I have for my friends in that area, none of it transfers to friends-of-friends or the apps my friends use. Why would anyone give friend-of-friend access to their detailed profile and social network information? Why would Facebook, by default, allow friends-of-friends to view my birthday, wall posts (and my friends’ wall posts), political and religious views,  and photos? Why should the apps that my friends install have access to my profile by default? If you don’t already have a good understanding of Facebook privacy settings, I suggest that you read this [updated 1/14/2016]. If you also want to see all the permissions that Facebook apps may request, check out...

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What is Privacy?

Like others involved in the emerging privacy marketplace, I think a lot about what “Privacy” means. There are many ways to approach this question, and this post is just one of the ways that I have been thinking about answering it. When people talk about online privacy, what do they mean? Most “Privacy” concerns seem to fall into the general buckets of: Will I be bothered by people trying to sell me stuff? Will others think bad of me? Will my property be damaged or taken? Will I be harmed? The evolution of our concern for privacy is certainly a thought provoking topic (get started here and here). Back when humans built their homes in whatever cave they could evict the current resident from, a failure to keep private had immediate health concerns. If someone, or something, knew about my daily business, they could steal my food supply, my mate, my home, or my life simply by waiting for me to sleep in my usual place. It was a competition for survival, and the more you know of your competitor, the likelier you were to live. Concerns about harm to person or property are the ones that your primitive self, your atavistic side, still recognizes. Have you ever felt someone’s eyes on you even though you couldn’t see them? Has a co-worker tracked your actions so that they could gain advantage at the next meeting? Have the hairs on the back of your neck raised as you entered your credit card number into an online store? That’s your old lizard brain, Freud’s “id,” speaking to you. That old lizard shouldn’t be brushed aside. In today’s online world there are stalkers waiting to do you harm. One could be sitting next to you at the coffee house watching your WiFi packets pass by as you login to your bank account. Another could be hacking the travel website you’re using to plan next month’s 4 week safari in Kenya. That info could be sold to someone who will have a leisurely time emptying your house. We’re lucky that most predators are simple opportunists who don’t make a business out of such things. Most methods for evading opportunists involve common-sense precautions. Still, there are the few shadowy stalkers who greatly profit by invading our privacy. Evading all of their techniques is much more difficult, and could require one to go completely off the grid. As one old punch line puts it, “You call that living?” Given that the planning predator is rare, if you practice the simple personal security techniques aimed at circumventing the opportunists, you likely won’t come to the attention of the more cunning ones. The Electronic Privacy Information Center...

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