[Air-L] Privacy Buzz

Zeynep Tufekci socnetres at gmail.com
Wed Feb 17 07:33:45 PST 2010

I'd like to add that I think opt-in versus opt-out is only part of the
picture. (I am agreeing with many of the points made above and just spelling
things out as I see them -- a little more detail at

What we are witnessing is a tragedy-of-commons for privacy and surveillance.
Four points:

1- Our social commons have moved online; it does not make sense to tell
people to avoid these services as they essential to participating fully in
the life of the 21st century.

2- Many of these are natural monopolies; due to network externalities, it
makes sense that there will be one big online auction space (Ebay), one big
search engine (Google), one big social directory (Facebook), one big
encyclopedia (Wikipedia), etc.

3- These are corporate-controlled environments where it makes sense for
those who control the design to maximize visibility. Design online is what
space is to offline; it shapes and structures behavior.

4- Most people most of the time will go with the flow. Availability of
opt-out will let those for whom this is a problem at the individual level to
avoid negative consequences but that does not get around the societal level

And that consequence is micro-level behavior that is searchable, permanent
and public.  That is the world we are slowly but surely creeping into.


Zeynep Tufekci, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
zeynep at umbc.edu or @techsoc

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