Friday, July 6, 2007

It's the end of privacy as we know it...and I feel fine

I've been thinking a lot about privacy lately, and the ways in which Web 2.0 is redefining it and its limits in the public space. Not just the public debate and controversy over Google and DoubleClick, or the relative safety of posting personal photos on FaceBook, MySpace, or Flickr, but the broader question of what defines privacy for the individual.

The other day I came across an upcoming conference on marketing in Second Life and decided to download the brochure. To do so I was asked to fill in some fields and give contact info -- not too unusual. About an hour afterwards a kind young man from the organization telephoned me to follow up, make sure I was able to complete the download successfully, and let me know about some group and hotel discounts they had available.

When I relayed this information to a colleague she was shocked at this invasion of my privacy, and indignant on my behalf. I had trouble explaining to her that in my view, I had opted in to get this call by filling in the optional telephone number field, and that this call was not only helpful, but was much preferable to the type of spam calls that I get all the time at home and work from telemarketers.

To my colleague, this call was on par with an unwanted telemarketing call. To me, this call was on par with someone giving me information that I had actually requested directly. Two different ways of viewing the issue, I guess.

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