People are over-sharing on Facebook and Twitter, broadcasting their whereabouts every ten steps on Foursquare and Gowalla, and uploading photos and videos of their most private moments to the Web for all to see. It’s easy to say that privacy is dead, we all live in public now, and just deal with it.
But things are a bit more complicated. It used to be that we lived in private and chose to make parts of our lives public. Now that is being turned on its head. We live in public, like the movie says (except via micro-signals not 24-7 video self-surveillance), and choose what parts of our lives to keep private. Public is the new default.
For more years than I've seen this public/private argument I've heard complete strangers sharing intimate details on mobile phones in public spaces.
I first gave up a land line in 1998. From 2000 onwards, I had only a mobile phone line (or lines, depending on whether I had a VOIP account and a cell contract).
I can say that subjectively I have heard more unimagineable private details shared on mobile phones in PUBLIC spaces around the globe (Target. The DC Metro. Schipol airport) than I have ever seen or been privy to on Twitter or Facebook.
Why? We believe private communications via mobile are 1+1 only, and strangely discount the amplification or contagion factor of sharing these conversations in a public space.
To use an inelegant but to my way of thinking - accurate- comparison, it's like picking your nose in 5MPH stop-and-go traffic on I95.
Just because you're in your car doesn't mean everyone else on the superhighway can't see you.
Just because you're speaking or tweeting or whatever over the information superhighway, aka social networking sites and services on the web, doesn't mean other people can't see and hear you...and all those dirty details you're shouting into your phone.
It isn't so much the channel(s) that disrupt privacy - it is our indivisible individual self-centeredness that mobile and social web technologies enhance and enable that frighten us, once that information gets out.
I guarantee if I did an 'ambient noise' collection project with deanonymized data in any hospital ER waiting area there would be a hue and a cry about privacy and security. But, seriously - if you're concerned about privacy - tone it down.
Remember amplification of your "voice" happens not only via these 'dangerously open' geolocation sites and services, but also via our own loud mouths and minds, proclaiming "here I am. This is what's happening."
I don't need Twitter (unfortunately?!) to tell me what's going on in the world. All I have to do is silence my own conversations long enough to listen for others.
This listening, rather than the platforms that enable us to amplify voices, is what should concern us when we talk about living out loud in public.
Who are you most afraid will hear you, after all?