Written December, 2012
The dizzying advances and the ubiquitous nature of communications and computers, and the astounding increases in the amount of data produced and collected in the world, have fundamentally changed the meaning of what constitutes an expectation of privacy. To live a meaningful life in the twenty first century almost requires an individual to operate in ways which leave a distinct digital trail. Even in the most underdeveloped countries, the cell phone is largely the primary means of communication.
Computer data mining systems and advanced statistical techniques, operating on prodigious amounts of structured data, pictures, and numerous electronic signals, are allowing unprecedented knowledge of individual preferences and behavior. In addition, individuals freely share surprising amounts of private information – which becomes searchable and discoverable – on social media systems and commercial sites.
Unfortunately, the policies, regulations, laws and ethical codes of behavior in regard to privacy and data have lagged far behind technology development, reflecting instead twentieth-century precedent and case law.
As corporations, governments, and individuals interact in the endlessly growing digital universe, new thinking is required privacy and civil liberties and the appropriate and ethical use of Big Data.
Social media privacy:
“Silent Listeners: The Evolution of Privacy and Disclosure on Facebook,”(Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality (2012) 4, Number 2, 7–41)