Privacy through Publicness: My thoughts after hearing Jeff Jarvis

Last Friday night I had the absolute pleasure of going to see Jeff Jarvis speak at the Canadian launch (in Ottawa) of his second book, Public Parts. (First book was What Would Google Do?) I haven't read either of Jeff's books...yet. They are both on my list and I snagged a copy of Public Parts at the launch Friday, so I'm halfway there already.

First of all, I would like to say that Jeff was an amazing speaker. Should you have the opportunity to hear him, do not miss out. And if you can't see him speak in person any time soon, just listen to his show on TWiT, This Week in Google. I follow his blog, Buzz Machine, which I've linked to about four times already. ;) This man has thoughts about privacy that make a lot of sense to me.

I'm just going to share a few (paraphrased) points that Jeff made - thoughts that are so important to the way we use and think about this online space that we're immersed in:

  • Jeff opened with talking about fear of privacy (breech) being associated with new technologies - he shared examples of the Gutenberg press and Kodakers and the backlash regarding privacy.
    My thoughts: This puts privacy concerns of today into a certain perspective. Are we moving toward a world where publicness is the norm?

  • Privacy is an ethic. Each of us is responsible for making use of it.
    My thoughts: Yes!!! What is shared out there is under my control. Granted, others may share things about me that I'm not comfortable with, but  those incidents can be dealt with.

  • We're still trying to figure out the social norms for online. When something new comes along, it's okay to proceed with caution, but stay open to the opportunities for good to come of it.
    My thoughts:  We trust banks, utility companies and other companies with our data for decades now. We've purchased magazines from companies that openly admit to selling our information. What Facebook and Google do with our data isn't all that different. The immediacy of the information and the volume scares people, though.

  • After sharing about his experience with prostate cancer, Jeff shared that men in the U.S. are being told they don't need to be checked. Less information is never good. Go get checked. How does that apply online? Imagine the good that can come from people sharing stories about their health. The connections, support and potentially links to causes. Yes, insurance companies can see it if it's online, but we have to tell them anyway.
    My thoughts: This is kind of revolutionary to me. I had never thought of this subject in the realm of the scientific advantages. But, setting that aside, the connections and support are invaluable.

  • Publicness eliminates the idea of a stranger, enables collaboration, community, wisdom of the crowd, disarms stigmas.
    My thoughts: Publicness opens doors you never even realized were there. Along with all these other benefits, it's hard to make a case against being public.

  • What you share on the Internet is a tattoo. It's permanent. Oversharing means the listener isn't interested. ("Don't want to hear what I have to say: unfriend, unfollow, don't read. Don't tell me I'm oversharing.") Jeff talked about the "digital native" myth and shared that we all have to learn to navigate this new space.
    My thoughts: I think oversharing can also be defined as sharing something you wish you hadn't shared. It happens every now and then. But people I see "oversharing" are usually sharing more than I'm comfortable with and it has nothing to do with them or anyone else.

  • Companies need to be more open. If they don't, we will trust them less. Government should be open by default, though necessary secrets do exist and are understandable.
    My thoughts: I agree. I often wonder why I can't find certain companies on social sites and why they aren't interacting with people. If I say something to a company, I (usually) expect a response, but often don't get one. Companies who respond to my random tweets about their products get an A+ in my book, especially if they work to address a problem. Same applies to government entities.

By far, the greatest argument for publicness was this: If you have information that can help someone, why not share it?

You can see the full stream of tweets for the event here and Joe Thornley published a list of reviews and posts from the Toronto and Ottawa events that took place last week.