Monday 20 November 2017

Rupert Myers: Click by click ... how every private moment made public adds to the value of Facebook

THERE was a time when privacy meant locking your door and enjoying the space to think, and to avoid the interference or observation of others. Now physical privacy is only a small part of what we should expect. Over each attack by the state on individual liberty there has been argument, but there are few lasting victories for those on the libertarian side of these debates.

Facebook launched in 2004. I joined at university on the 19th May 2005, when it was still exclusive, cool, and still “The Facebook”. This was the first site which got us to share private data with others in the network, because it was exclusive, and what we got in return was more information. We became unimpressed with the expansion of Facebook to include anyone who wished to join, and tended to reduce the amount of information we shared. Now, at the age of 27, some of my friends have left, and those who never signed up are less inclined to change their minds. Despite this, Facebook managed something remarkable: it brought us from a standing start to a place where we were sharing lists of our contacts, announcements of our love lives, unguarded photographs, and innermost thoughts.

Those who are growing up and joining now are doing so from a position of total immersion in the concept. One day people may be astonished that we ever lived in a world where people didn’t have access to Street View photographs of every road, public timelines of our personal lives, and a constant feed of the thoughts and feelings of everyone on earth. The landscape in which legislators will quietly call for greater powers to monitor us will be radically different. There may be few who can opt-out, and fewer who remember it being any other way.

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