Monday, May 25, 2009
In addition, it seems to me that the “omnipresence” of the Web implies that people who express themselves on the Web ought to provide statements providing mutual reassurance of privacy for other people or parties that they do business with.
Since the mid 1990s, the Web has given people with very little capital and no real editorial supervision (as with the “professional” press) to post opinions or facts on the Web where they can be found by anyone on this planet (and who knows, maybe other planets in the future!) We have referred to this capability as the “free entry” system (or “low barrier to entry” system).
Around 2004, social networking sites came along, and the public came to perceive the Web as a portal for networking as well as publishing. And, since the late 1990s, P2P has provided additional “controversial” modes of communication.
Any innovation that changes the topology of our communication can have unintended “sandpile related” and “unthinkable” consequences (to follow the language of the recent book by Joshua Cooper Ramo). Napster and sites like Myspace and Facebook provide examples of radical innovation launched by single individuals. My own contribution, from the late 1990s, has been to show how a single person’s “gonzo journalism” can have a disproportionate effect on social or political affairs by making people much more conscious of how they perceive themselves and how others perceive themselves.
The open and unbounded nature of web communication implies that any time a party does business with another party (in employment, contracting, personal service, even renting property) there is a possibility of privacy compromise or harm from unsupervised postings on the Web. These problems vary from older issues like conflict of interest and trade secret compromise to newer ideas like “online reputation defense.” Over time, I’ve made a number of postings about these issues, and I find that they form an evolving issue. One subtle aspect of the issue has to do with the fact that different cultures have different notions of “privacy” and “self concept” and that accidental compromise can easily occur, to the unpleasant surprise of both parties.