When Dan Farber pinged me about the Digital Bill of Rights, I was a tad dismissive. Stuff like that usually leaves me cold - I guess it comes from years of working alongside lawyers who could fry any sane person's brains with their mental gymnastics. But then I noticed Facebook is proposing changes that mean my private data may no longer be MY private data but be searchable by Google. I'm not happy about that prospect and for once I'm seriously considering how I'm going to handle my Facebook presence. Reading Dan's earlier piece that talks to this topic, he notes that:
Basically, if you are on the Internet, your are exposed, which is why it is increasingly important to foster guidelines and regulations that maintain individual rights to privacy and ownership of their data in the digital age.
I'm usually relaxed about these things but given I have a LOT of personal data out on Facebook (and elsewhere), I decided to restrict access to certain of that data. Why? Because I know how easy it would be for anyone to obtain a copy of my birth certificate from the data that's already there. It is but a hop and a skip to obtain a passport, drivers license and bank account. All in my name. I really had been monumentally careless. J.LeRoy already thinks Facebook is out of control. Tish Grier is uncomfortable with the thought that:
...in this brave new world where tons of people are looking to mine our information and monetize whatever they can get their hands on, we stand to become nothing more than "contact information" rather than good business connections or friends.
I definitely don't like that idea. It reminds me of The Prisoner where the nameless hero yells: "I am not a number, I am a free man" on the opening sequence to each show. And as a free man, I want my data to be free. Luis Suarez , my sometimes IBM sparring partner is vociferous in his objections to Facebook. At the time he wrote his objections, I said that you can control your privacy and under the latest changes you still can. But can you really? I don't know any longer. I know that Google and others who want my data are in the business of using it for targeted advertising. But what if...?
I've often held out Facebook as a metaphor for a platform that delivers lightweight applications, call it mashups if you wish for the business world. I liked the idea that it is a walled garden because it provides the control business needs. I still think that's a good idea. But if Facebook is pointing the way of the future, I'm wondering whether my less than rigorous assessment might have been premature.
I need look more closely at what Marc Canter and others are saying about my data. Not because I am worried about my privacy in the same way as others but because I am concerned I may be unwittingly paving the way for the creation of a Mr Hyde to my Doctor Jekyll, courtesy of an as yet unknown business application developer.