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Unwitting Exposure: Does Posting Personal Information Online Mean Giving up Privacy?

“People who access the Internet for what have become routine functions — sending emails, writing blogs, and posting photos and information about themselves on social networking sites — do not realize how much of their personal privacy they put at risk, according to Wharton faculty and legal experts. Nor, they add, have the courts fully addressed the ways in which the Internet can be harnessed for questionable purposes that encroach on privacy. ”

Kevin Werbach observes:

…[L]ots of situations that used to be private are now public. It’s not a question of privacy but of social norms. Perhaps the answer is just, ‘That’s too bad.’ If someone had snapped a photo of [the Korean girl who didn’t clean up after her dog on the subway] robbing a bank and she said, ‘You can’t take a photo of me,’ most of us would say, ‘Too bad, you were robbing a bank.’ In a perverse way, we’re going back to the small town where everyone knows what everyone else is doing by virtue of the global information superhighway. My point is, right or wrong, this is going to happen. Google is not going to go away.”

I agree that we may be moving to more of a “small town” environment, where your actions are known to many people, instead of you benefiting from the traditional anonymity of the big city. However, unfortunately so far there’s very little evidence that this is resulting in an increase in standards of behavior, which would be my preferred outcome. Unfortunately, for broader societal reasons, we seem to be steadily defining deviancy down.

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