Here’s a few comments on an article from Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
London, Los Angeles, New Delhi and Singapore Vol 14(1): 13–20
Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck
Exposure, Invasion, and Social Convergence
Harvard University and University of California-Berkeley, USA
Boyd argues that changes made to the public feed feature on Facebook have significanly altered the dynamic of what is viewed as private. She uses the example of a party conversation where one needs to shout to be heard only to find that everything suddenly goes quiet as you’re about to finish your sentence. What was a conversation protected in some way by the din of the surroundings, the need to be physically proximate, and the assessment that only those nearby could hear what was being said suddenly becomes a very public communication.
Boyd notes that a similar event happened when Facebook created the public feed and caused what seemingly were private moments and events – despite them being available if someone searched hard enough – into easily accessible public information. It is this disruption she suggests that is new in the digital world.
In the physical world we have become accustomed to ways to protect our privacy, notably walls, physical distance, volume of speech. However, Boyd points out that in a digital world these disappear and are replaced by search capabilities that make previously “private” information very public.
Privacy is all about control one has about information about the self, Boyd suggests. Information is private therefore, not because it is not known, but because it is carefully controlled. It is far more difficult to keep a secret then to not allow the information out at all. Some information, she opines, is only relevant in certain social settings, but Facebook’s public feed obliterated the context of this “grey”area information and disrupted the way in which people approached their privacy online.
This collapsing of social domains has resulted in what Boyd calls “social convergence” where previously discrete social contexts are brought together through technologies and digitisation. This convergence raises a number of questions, says Boyd, and significant concerns about the future of privacy as people deal with these converged domains without any form of social scripts.