The issues that Facebook faced the last few weeks of 2007 have seemed to resurrect - or perhaps, inflame is the better word - the issue of privacy. But I don't think it's merely all about privacy: it's about reading the fine print.
I know, I know - Facebook should have had done something about it by clearly informing its users to do something about it.
But I think that the issue points to something bigger - our evolving concept of privacy and our personal bubble.
Our personal bubble in the physical space, I believe remains - we still maintain a certain distance in the urinals (for men) and in buses and trains. We don't want anyone's skin touching our skin in the subway or in the bus. Even if it were accidental, we are very protective of it.
As this is happening, we are also beginning to strengthen that bubble - adding layers and layers of protection to this 'physical' space around us: through iPods and MP3 players, through ear-phones, through PSPs and mobile phone texting whilst inside the bus.
Not only are we now concerned about being touched by another stranger - we are also building walls around us though these gadgets.
That's how we establish our sense of privacy in the offline world.
However, in the online world, we seem to act differently: We join a social network (e.g., Facebook) that updates all our friends and colleagues what we are doing. We write a blog and post our photos online - sometimes restricted to a few of our network, but most of the time, open to the public. We follow people on Twitter - and we personally update what we re doing on Twitter. We allow people to create RSS feeds of our blogs - our lives. We publish to the world our Amazon wishlists - and identify ourselves as part of a 'fan-group' of brands, politicans, services, and other things - again on social-networks. We make recommendations about books that we loved - and hated. We make recommendations about movies that we hated. We converse - video to video - on YouTube.
All these in full view of the world.
Sure. We don't give our social security numbers and other personal details.
But it seems that our concept of privacy online has evolved.
Seth Godin, in one of his blog entries, suggests that it is because we are anonymous online.
But the thing is, all these have made us less anonymous online.
We are raising our hands to be identified as fans of such and such personality or brand. We are identifying ourselves to be interested in this or that service. We are airing our views online more than ever.
We are less anonymous.
By our own choosing.
And with that choice came, I believe, a change in the concept of what is private in the digital world.
Sure, credit cards and social security and financial records will still remain private. But employment history, dating history, so-called social timelines in Facebook, friends and cluster of friends... all these are no longer as private as they were before. Because we choose it to be so.
Am I reading it incorrectly - or are we also changing our views of what private is private.