March 25

Openness over Privacy

china lock verticalby Carl Anctil

I’m presently reading the book Wikinomics by Don Tapscott. Early in Chapter One, the author explains how Wikinomics works and how it’s based on four powerful new ideas. These four ideas are: openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally. After reading about these four principles, I realized that this thing called Wikinomics actually works. We can simply look at the development of Linux as an early example of Wikinomics success.

Now that Web 2.0 and mass collaboration has gone mainstream, what effect has it had on our privacy? I’ve noticed a trend in the past several years about how much easier we share and disclose our personal information. Should we be concerned about this trend?

I remember back in 1991 when I first started using the Internet. The first thing I learned was all about pseudonyms and how important it was not to reveal personal details online. Even today, we still teach children and adults about the dangers of giving out too much personal information on the internet. Is it necessary to divulge personal information to be open? Or is it possible to be behind a pseudonym and still be considered open?

I’m going to use myself as an example. I’m currently serving in the military. I have about four years before my time is up and I retire from the service after twenty-two years. I will be young enough to have another twenty years to turn a nine year old hobby into a second career.

One of the problems I’m facing is this; How open should I be? I’ve been on IRC on and off for years and I’ve been on multiple mailing lists as well. I’ve probably had conversations with some of you in the past but I’ve always had and used multiple pseudonyms. How have you as professionals dealt with this?

If openness in the Wikinomics sense has worked in the past using pseudonyms, what has changed today to make us stop using pseudonyms in favour of our real names?

I’ve tossed out a lot of questions in this post. However, I will remain on the same theme next month but this time with answers.

The fact that I wrote this post and you are reading it is the peering part. Next is the sharing so feel free to send comments. And by acting globally together, we will benefit our common and greater community.


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  1. The problem with things like pseudonyms and other methods to mask identity is that they don’t work at the lower layers. As recent events (and laws/regs) around behavioral advertising and cookie handling have demonstrated, we’re being tracked and uniquely identified at both a hardware and software level, and that data is then correlated to other easily-obtained information to paint a very clear, distinct picture of who we are and what we do.

    We can pretend that the steps we’re taking protect our privacy, but until there’s a full understanding of all tracking avenues and mechanisms, and there’s an effective opt-out process (with validation), it’s all just whistling past the graveyard from a privacy perspective.

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