Pulling the Cyber Shades Completely Down

And shouldn't widow Jones be told to keep her window shades all pulled completely down...

I was listening to music yesterday as I was catching up on Facebook, and the classic country song Harper Valley P.T.A., made popular by Jeannie C. Riley in 1968, popped up on my playlist. It dawned on me, as I heard the words above, that perhaps the raging privacy debate over social networking's reach might not be that different from other more physical efforts to protect privacy.

Our society is increasingly becoming the "who cares about privacy?" society. Younger (and increasingly older) generations are posting information about every aspect of their lives. Merely by following Twitter and Facebook feeds one can learn what one's friends, enemies, and random acquaintances one befriends but would never hang out with in the physical world are doing. One can discover their likes, dislikes, and, in some instances, how they looked in their youth.

From a cyber perspective, there arises the question what personal information really needs protecting on social network sites if we broadcast our activities to the world? Why should we really care about the privacy implications on social networks when we so readily share and want to share more, including our taste in books, music, and reading habits? Indeed, it seems as if the trends in social networking is to share more. So what does this mean?

In some ways, we should look back at our country song's lyrics. Should Widow Jones have expected privacy when the good folks of Harper Valley could easily have seen into her windows? It could be argued that social networking has taken privacy to the next level,with the ability to share certain types of information with only certain individuals. It would be similar to Widow Jones having the capability to decide who gets to see her with the shades up, while blocking others from looking in.

If viewed that way, then the social networking sites might actually be offering more privacy than the physical world as it is easier to silo digital information than to block people from looking into open windows. Or is it? After all, in the physical world, unless she is a celebrity, there may be little interest beyond the local gossip mill in what is behind the widow's shades. One's social networking site can and often is dissected and analyzed for data, which is then sold to third-parties or used to better advertise your preferences.

Privacy controls or the lack thereof help define the resources and attention that are devoted to cybersecurity. Less privacy expectations could mean less resources being devoted to cybersecurity as we leave the shades up to our personal information. Or it could arguably mean that our willingness to share in our personal lives will allow cybersecurity efforts to focus on critical infrastructures that are key to our society and the freedoms we enjoy.