This week I want to reflect on the comment Mark Zuckerberg made that Privacy is no longer a social norm. I want to start by addressing two concepts he raises:
1) What is privacy and
2) What is a social norm.
1. A state in which one is not observed or disrupted by other people.
1.1 The state of being free from public attention.
The Office of the Information Commissioner (OAIC) on their What’s Privacy page focus on is the Privacy Act and the protection of personal information. Now personal information is information about someone such as a name, address, photo(s), personal opinions and beliefs. The Privacy Act applies to all government agencies and some organisations and protects the personal information (and other types of information) for all individuals not government agencies, organisations or corporations. Now I could go on for days about Privacy and the Privacy Act but that’s another blog 😉
I believe State Records South Australia has hit the nail on the head when they say Privacy can mean different things to different people. The detailed information on their website focusses on Information Privacy, however the description they provide about privacy I feel is really important (check it out here: What is Privacy?).
The point I wanted to make is that there is such a variation in the interpretation of what ‘privacy’ is an as an individual we will have a different interpretation of this.
Let’s for the moment move onto social norms. Social norms are essentially the expected behaviours with a specific group or community. There’s no one size fits all for social norms, it is based on the environment, beliefs, customs and traditions of the people that make up that group or community.
Here are a couple of example which could challenge the perception of social norms:
So why are the definitions of these relevant? Well, Mark Zuckerberg is claiming that Privacy is no longer a social norm, but what social norm environment is he talking about? If he’s saying, it’s a social norm for everyone not to be concerned about privacy, well sorry Mark, I don’t think you’re right. But if we look at the definition of privacy (being fluid) and social norm (being a group or community) then depending on the information being ‘exchanged’ and the beliefs of that group then I suppose he’s correct.
I believe there should be a common sense approach when it comes to social media but unfortunately this isn’t something that is static either. This article simply highlights the perspective of privacy on Facebook, which follows my theory. Rick says “…only things that are truly private on Facebook are the things that never get posted in the first place.” This statement is something I take quite seriously and people who aren’t my friends on Facebook will see different information about me than my friends do. I have a number of things which are restricted to “friends only” so I have to admit I’d be pretty unhappy if my ‘not public’ information made its way out there into the public realm.
The way we do things has changed over the last few decades (and even years), we are in a technology flourishing culture where social media is prevalent. The way we provide organisations our information (we rarely fill in a paper form anymore) and search for information has changed (I can’t remember the last time I went to the library for a book). With all of that personal information being maintained in computer system(s) (cloud or on premise) information is still getting out there. Whether it is released through intentionally or unintentionally leaks (here’s an interesting article on unofficial official leaks of Apple) or accessed via a cultivated and strategised hacking expedition. I came across this interesting data-visualisation which identifies the world’s biggest data breaches. It’s incredible to see what was happening in 2005 and what’s happening today.
We can’t change the world and protect everyone from personal information hacks or the dissemination of personal information. But I believe each person should be conducting in mini risk assessment in what they do online. So if a government official wants to use Ashley Madison and use their work email or someone wants to host a public event on Facebook we can’t really stop them. I think as a community what we can do is guide them in making the appropriate decision and raising the awareness of the potential repercussions of their information being released to the public.