Danah Boyd: Social networks, privacy and privilege

If we’re building a public stage, we need to give people the ability to protect themselves, the ability to face the consequences honestly. We cannot hide behind rhetoric of how everyone is public just because everyone we know in our privileged circles is walking confidently into the public sphere and assuming no risk. And we can’t justify our decisions as being simply about changing norms when the economic incentives are all around. I’m with Marshall on this one: Facebook’s decision in an economic one, not a social norms one. And that scares the bejesus out of me.

People care deeply about privacy, especially those who are most at risk of the consequences of losing it. Let us not forget about them. It kills me when the bottom line justifies social oppression. Is that really what the social media industry is about?

Danah Boyd makes an important point about the relationship between privacy and privilege – its fills a nagging doubt I have had about social networks and privacy. I always think about the story of the 16 year old, who was sacked for complaining about being bored at work. Her comments might well have been wrong, but her treatment is a stark contrast to people in other public positions who have been caught out doing things that are far worse or when dubious aspects of the private life have come to light. The social Web isn’t always as egalitarian as we might think.

BTW Its a real shame we can’t get more intelligent commentary from the traditional media, but instead they prefer to be fuel FUD about this topic.

UPDATE: Another interesting post around this topic is from Stowe Boyd, who talks about Secrecy, Privacy and Publicy.