Privacy and Control

Bruce Schneier has shared a column that he wrote originally for Forbes.com. It is a nuanced examination of the hypothesis that the generation of so-called digital natives has foregone any reasonable conception of privacy, at least for their online lives.

Schneie debunks this idea, explaining that the notion that has passed is that secrecy is equivalent to privacy. He suggests that the struggle is now centered around control. My inference is that expectation is also important, that if controls are presented but do not behave as expected, that is where even the net-born howl in outrage.

He rightly shifts the attribution of the privacy-is-dead rhetoric to large companies that have a vested interest in wresting control away from users. I’ve warned before that this line of reasoning by the likes of Zuckerberg and Schmidt could become a self fulfilling prophecy. Even if it is coerced, changing norms could interact with existing law to erode our control massively.

I don’t entirely disagree with his conclusion, that we need legislation. It remains to be seen if law makers can craft a minimal enough policy that affords basic privacy protection with the full weight of enforcement.

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