The Press Ombudsman and Press Council had an event in Cork last Friday and I was asked to talk for 15 minutes on privacy and blogging though I instead talked about what is happening online and thoughts on privacy.
I talked about Twitter and Facebook pumping out tens of millions bits of data every day and after the recent privacy changes on Facebook, these bits are public. Twitter mostly throws out 25 million 140 character chunks of text each day as well as links to websites and 100s of 1000s if not millions of cameraphone photos. Facebook 10s of millions more. So perhaps 100 Million chunks of data be they links, text or photos are now shared with the web. Once shared, they’ll be found. Google and Facebook already tie directly into Twitter now. Facebook and Bing are tied together and Google has some access to Facebook. Oh and by the way, Facebook and their privacy changes have lots of people up in arms. Facebook were going to be wiped out if they did not react to Twitter and sites like Tumblr who already default to public. A generation has already been won over by this. A generation that will fuel our wages.
Privacy was about control of you
Victorian era dictating your looks, what you say, how you sound, how you dress and so on. The idea of privacy back then seemed to force people into doing certain things. One was expected to shroud oneself in shroudiness (not a real word). Now we can opt in or opt out on sharing of data. We don’t have to Twitter, upload photos that are public by default. We have granular control in Facebook. We now have amazing control of how we share and to who we share. One definition of privacy is that it is a personal choice/control we ahvea right to.
I previously talked though about not having any privacy in public when I was off Twitter. Despite not being on it, people reported where I was seen, what I was wearing, they talked about when I was doing media interviews or where I checked in for food on Foursquare. Do I have any rights to demand privacy in a public place or a private place that the public can see in to? Not everyone has a legal team like Princess Caroline. If I upload photos of myself on Twitter then do I have the right to complain when someone takes one of me and uploads it?
At the talk was a very good example of what the kids saw as a privacy violation. A friend of theirs died and they left messages to their friend on his/her Bebo page. The messages were quoted in newspapers. The kids felt this was a breach of their privacy. Perhaps the equivalent of talking to your friend and their grave and having the comments printed. So findable text could be seen as private even in a public space? I notice this was done on the Brian Lenihan support Page on Facebook where his under 18 year old son left a thank you message and it was quoted in the media.
How can libel laws exist with a networked world?
So here’s another thing. Libel laws and defamation laws were great in an unconnected world. Word couldn’t spread that far and you could find the source and legally smother it. In a world where everyone is connected, news and lies can spread in the backchannels and there isn’t much you can do. That might have traveled in an unconnected world but it would be slow. Just via email. Facebook mail or private messages on Twitter, we all get to know all the gorey details of the Irish Robinson hoopla, much more than the press were able to print. So while the press here and perhaps even bloggers can be strongly influenced by the libel laws, what about those just copy and pasting 140 characters from one private message to another? We already saw the web getting around an injunction against the Guardian.
Even in public, when you retweet (resend a message from someone to your network) who gets sued for libel? The final person in the pass-me-along, the originator (if you can find them), every person that re-sent it or the people who have the most contacts?
Also, with the whole worry about kids making themselves look stupid and in the future they’ll need jobs and this will damage their chance. Do we forget that these kids are going to be OUR employers?