When Privacy Goes Poof!

Why It's Gone and Never Coming Back

“Get over it!” as Scott McNeeley said – unhelpfully. Only if we understand why it is gone and not coming back do we have a shot at rethinking what privacy means in a new context. Thieme goes deep and wide as he rethinks the place of privacy in the new social/cultural context and challenges contemporary discussions to stop using 20th century frames. Pictures don’t fit those frames, including pictures of “ourselves.” We have always known we were cells in a body, but we emphasized “cell-ness”. Now we have to emphasize “body-ness” and see ourselves differently. What we see depends on the level of abstraction at which we look. The boundaries we imagine around identities, psyches, private internal spaces,” are violated in both directions, going in and going out, by data that, when aggregated, constitutes “us”. We are known by others more deeply in recombination from metadata than we know ourselves. We are not who we think we are. To understand privacy – even what we mean by “individuals” who want it – requires a contrary opinion. Privacy is honored in lip service, but not in the marketplace, where it is violated every day. To confront the challenges of technological change, we have to know what is happening to “us” so we can re-imagine what we mean by privacy, security, and identity. We can’t say what we can’t think. We need new language to grasp our own new “human nature” that has been reconstituted from elements like orange juice. The weakest link in discussions of privacy is the definition of privacy, and the definition of privacy is not what we think. Buddhists call enlightenment a “nightmare in daylight”, yet it is enlightenment still, and that kind of clarity is the goal of this presentation.

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