John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Privacy Dies.

Perhaps I should have said that Privacy Dies When Surrendered.

I think it is important to point out that when it is surrendered, Privacy dies. It evaporates. It withers.  And privacy is essential. Privacy Dies

Shamable posted an interesting thought – on “Why Foursquare Will Trump Twitter.” Although they have a written an interesting article that explains what Foursquare does, and why it is useful, they are absolutely wrong. The problem with Shamable’s argument is that four-square is one more step down a slippery slope of privacy’s death.  Since Privacy is essential to SO many people, Shamable isn’t right.   How do we get from Foursquare to the death of Privacy?

 There is a continuum between applications and the way they are used:

  • Twitter= What are you doing?
  • Foursquare = Where are you?

It isn’t going to be long until there are other killer apps that answer:

  • What are you spending on?
  • What do you want? (enough that you’re willing to spend for it)
  • What do you have?
  • “What do you hate?” (which may already be encompassed by Yelp)
  • “What will you lie about – or – what have you lied about?”
  • “What will you cheat on – or what have you cheated on?”

Microsoft probably  missed an opportunity when they didn’t build “Where do you want to go” years ago when they used that phrase as their slogan.

So – here’s my point. Telling people… telling EVERYONE where you are, what you want, where you are going, what you want, and where you want to go… is like Orwell upside down.

There is no need for 1984 big-brother type government apparatus in a world where everyone abandons, surrenders and advertises the elements of their lives which they optionally could keep private. It would get VERY difficult for the Secret Service to meet their primary responsibilities if the President started using Foursquare on his blackberry.  Imagine seeing things like this on Twitter:

BarackObama: I’m leaving the White House on Marine 1 headed to Andrews AFP on @foursquare!

BarackObama: I’m  new Mayor of Washington D.C. “5-Guys” on @foursquare!

If it is so obvious why there are privacy issues for a public figure, why does everyone else want to advertise what they’re doing? When there are enormous downsides to giving up our publicity – aptly displayed by sites like “” explained in this Denver Post article.  I was amazed to read that one of the people who’s information was shared on “PleaseRobMe” was interviewed and said that

HUH? He is saying that people WANT to surrender privacy. People WANT to? Really? Why is that? Well, it is because sharing where you REALLY are, is real. I’m a big fan of Jesse Schell. He points out two important factors in his presentation:

1) Life is becoming very much LIKE a game and perhaps, life IS becoming a game
2) Because of everything simulated in our lives, authenticity has enormous value.

We have to be careful about surrendering privacy because surrendering privacy is surrendering liberty. Bruce Schneier explained it in one of my favorite articles in Wired a few years ago. He wrote in a simpler time, in a Pre-twitter, pre-Foursquare world. What he wrote is more applicable every day: 

“The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy.”

Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy.  When we surrender our own privacy, it dies. When privacy dies, Liberty may not be far behind.  I’m not going into a future-courtroom where foursquare provides an alibi, or destroys one.   The agents who killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh – the Hamas operative, Assassination Tango would NEVER have checked in. Just imagine: @Gail arrives in Dubai on flight AF526 on @foursquare

My argument is that Foursquare is not going to “trump twitter” as Shamable suggests. Both are components of privacy’s self-inflicted death.  But people are not going to give up their privacy when they realize the enormous value of what they are surrendering. Privacy is a fundamental right.  If you look at the Orwellian nightmare where War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength, foursquare is an example of… Privacy is Public.  But it isn’t. It really isnt.

March 1st, 2010 Posted by | Life | no comments