Privacy – layers of disclosure over time
Earlier this week I highlighted how privacy is a many-layered issue. Its not just about considering right now what you’re sharing and with whom/what app, but also about what those you share with may choose to share themselves about you (knowingly or unknowingly). A further complication is the time dimension.
A big difference between sharing verbally (at the pub say) and on a non-private social network is that in the latter your share remains there for history (or a good Google/Bing search) to find. I am enormously glad, now that I am a seasoned businessman, that some of my more daft youth fueled excesses are not available for posterity to look at. But surely, if you lock your Facebook data down to Friends only and are careful about what friends you invite then all is OK? Well probably not, no – the time dimension must be taken into account. Friends now are not necessarily friends then, i.e. when we make new friends we don’t always tell them our whole past, we edit and select what is pertinent to the new friendship.
An easy example of this is when we’re in our early courting years – so I have a girlfriend for a few years and unfortunately we break up and move on, and then I get a new girlfriend. Do I mention all the things I did with my old girlfriend – I suggest highly likely not! Yet, with access to my Facebook timeline my new girlfriend can see everything I posted with my old girlfriend, from smoochy thoughts, photos, events, etc. Time moves on and none of us can cope well with comparisons – “you didn’t take me to Venice 2 months after we met!”. Is this just a theoretical example? – probably not as the edited extract from the timeline of one of my Facebook friends shows (I did ask permission!); I’m not sure his new girlfriend is going to fully appreciate his old ‘couply’ photos!
Privacy is complicated, both directly with whom you share and what, with apps that may or may not take more than they should, with your friends inadvertently exposing more of your data, or with the passage of time. Whatever the uber-sharers would like us to believe, I do not think we’ve scratched the surface on what this means to us in terms of relationships or social mores. Until we know how to live socially within this over-sharing world then caution should be exercised – unless you’re using a really 100% private sharing system, then only share that which you are probably happy with the world seeing – now AND forever.