Friday, June 4, 2010

Privacy and Identity... danah boyd

First off, I'd like to draw everybody's attention to the Digital Native newsfeed I added to my blog this morning. It comes from the Berkman Center at Harvard, which I posted more about yesterday.

Also through the Berkman Center, I came across a link to danah boyd's blog. Boyd is a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center and a researcher for Microsoft who deals with new media issues, such as privacy and identity. I found a good amount of posts on this blog that have helped me to better understand my topic, such as the post "Facebook and radical transparency (a rant)" and "Pew Research confirms that youth care about their reputation".

So, do danah boyd and I agree on identity issues in the online world, you ask? Her ideas have definitely helped me consider new facets of my argument, such as the tie between identity and privacy. In her Facebook rant post mentioned above, boyd argues that Facebook ought to do a much better job of keeping people informed about how their privacy settings are configured. We must have the right to choose and consent to our identity in cyberspace. If people want to be very public, such as boyd, who makes herself public through Facebook and Twitter, that's great--but they ought to have the right to know exactly what information is being published.

Boyd's rant came in response mostly to Mark Zuckerberg, and the changing of Facebook's privacy standards. Zuckerberg said “You have one identity… The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly…"

So where do I fall in this debate? Well, I guess I agree more with boyd. People care about their online identities, and they ought to be able to control those identities. I'm still trying to figure out if boyd would agree that this measure of control over multiple identities is basically the same as forming an aggregate online identity. Like one of boyd's commenters said, "truth is the aggregation of a gazillion interactions." So that's where I'm headed in my research process right now.


  1. Looks like you've found a lot of new ideas to go off of. Have you considered e-mailing or getting in contact with danah boyd and just askiing her yourself? Maybe pose an interview session with her and bounce an idea you have off of her?

  2. I completely agree that people should be clearly informed about the degree of privacy which they will or will not be given using any service or application. It is a huge problem that companies such as Facebook and Google are much more interested in growing through asking forgiveness for sharing information than letting all users know what will happen ahead of time. Facebook has every right to insist that all information be public, but users have every right to know ahead of time and to delete their information.

    As for the "truth is an aggregation" idea... I *think* that I agree. It is funny that some people think that identity can be determined by a few facts fit into 140 characters. So I know that you're female, a student, and LDS. You know that I am female, Catholic, and married. But we obviously can't know each other's identity through those few facts.

    Perhaps a huge problem of online "identity" is that things must be so compressed that it is impossible to have "truth" unless, perhaps, one is willing to read someone's blog, Twitter, and Facebook information for years. Then one can know the other person's online identity. But something will always be missing without non-electronic interpersonal interaction.

    At least that is what I think for now!

    Sorry for rambling, and thanks for your comment.