Privacy, Consent and Collaboration

In an era when the web appears to be getting ever more invasive, and where there are undercurrents of our unwittingly collaborating in some giant marketing graph of connections and preferences (today's latest installment: Google maps cars recording MAC addresses), there's a huge difference between being unknowingly mapped and recorded and granting consent.In most western countries the laws against eavesdropping and espionage are clear cut.

In an era when the web appears to be getting ever more invasive, and where there are undercurrents of our unwittingly collaborating in some giant marketing graph of connections and preferences (today's latest installment: Google maps cars recording MAC addresses), there's a huge difference between being unknowingly mapped and recorded and granting consent.

In most western countries the laws against eavesdropping and espionage are clear cut. If I want to record a meeting or a phone call, something which has never been technically easier to do, I am required to ask permission and describe how I will use the materials.

These are unusual times where we are steadily moving back to mainframe computing, this time en masse, after a 30 year period of personal computing. (Microsoft is called that for a reason historically...).

For a computing population used to saving out information locally, little thought is given at work or at home as to where information is being stored, and the cloud is a wonderful thing for convenience.

The floppy disk era is finally ending just as the financial trap snaps shut on sites such as Ning, which has encouraged communities to be built up on their servers at no user cost, with no export capability. Starting soon Ning will start charging, and the internal user graphs and all the content will be deleted unless the administrators start paying.

Presumably Ning will continue to mine the information it has full access to on your site whether you chose to continue or not.

Kaliya Hamlin commented on her  'identity woman' blog  about the latest Facebook announcements around their "continuing apparent “centralization” of identity"

The issue at hand is fundamentally about FREEDOM: the freedom to choose who hosts your identity online (with the freedom to set up and host your own), the freedom to choose your persona – how you present yourself, what your gender is, your age, your race, your sex, where you are in the world.

Outside the social media mining and marketing world, this has far reaching implications for employee confidence and trust to collaborate freely with peers.

We are now in the farcical situation with Facebook of needing to set up new accounts as being under 18 in order to opt out of Facebook's instant personalization and having your information shared all over the web.

Facebook's Policy for Minors is the last semi refuge of privacy there. From Facebook;

How does privacy work for minors with regard to the Pages to which they connect?

We reduce the visibility of information for anyone under 18, so even if a minor has set his or her information as visible to Everyone, we limit it to only Friends, Friends of Friends and Networks. This includes whether a minor will show up on a public Page to which they've connected. In other words, we only allow those who’ve been verified—by either a school or a friend—to see the information that minors share. This does not apply to certain basic public information, including Name, Profile Picture, Gender and verified Networks, which is treated equally for all people on Facebook.

Employee Identity

Personal social lives have huge ramifications for employees retaining their privacy and personality, given that employers can see their employees and prospective hire activities online. Dave Winer summarizes the reality of the dog eat dog world inside most large companies in a blog post titled "How BigTechCo's work inside"

All big tech companies are basically the same inside. They all have too many people, they must, because they expend a lot of energy fighting with each other over who has the right to do this or that. There's always someone looking over your shoulder for a sign that you're blowing it, so they can tell someone at a higher level in management about your failure, so they can snatch the project for themselves.

In this type of environment collaboration initiatives can be a pressure release valve, by demystifying and enabling work related information sharing.

Driving business performance with well defined focus, workflows and intents using modern technology intelligently and within clear boundaries, as I'm intimately familiar with from my consulting work.

Get it wrong and you can create a dystopian social club for people who hate each other and are jockeying for position, exacerbated by participants encouraged to be as phony as the 'Beach Blanket Bingo' studio shot 'beach' movie trailer at the top of this post by Facebook and its social media ecosphere.

Secret agendas are endemic in business; Enterprise 2.0 thinking can help straighten things out when supporting and enabling modern management techniques, but we already now from the endless shadow IT instances how easy it is for people to be going through the motions for the official script but behaving completely differently in private locations.

The solution to this issue is essentially private or public groups of users whose chosen persona and identities are respected and protected. You have these rights now with bugging laws in most countries, how long will it be before the individual is similarly protected online, whether as an employee or in their social life?

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