Dilemmas of Openness - Privacy

This is the fifth in a series of posts that detail some of the moral, ethical, and other dilemmas of openness in education. I look forward to your feedback and participation!


In his recent TEDxObserver talkCory Doctorow compared Facebook to a Skinner box that reinforces behaviors and attitudes that encourage sharing. "I don't use Facebook... I think it's bloody awful," said Doctorow, arguing that kids today are being taught to under-value their privacy.  By being rewarded socially and psychologically when personal information is shared using the site, there might be times when such sharing simply goes too far.

Is sharing with others worth the online exposure and resultant potential loss of privacy?

Having seen Eagle Eyeentire seasons of Prison Break, and read (and even enjoyed most of) Little Brother, I can see why Doctorow might be a little concerned/paranoid.  Still, is there really that much cause for alarm? 


At the end of the day, Daniel Solove makes a very strong argument as to why all people - regardless of their stance on openness - should be at least somewhat concerned about the issues surrounding personal privacy.
One can usually think of something compelling that even the most open person would want to hide.  As one comment to my blog post noted: “If you have nothing to hide, then that quite literally means you are willing to let me photograph you naked?  And I get full rights to that photograph - so I can show it to your neighbors?” (p. 750)
Solove continues by elaborating on the "I have nothing to hide" argument that many put forth when confronted with voiced concerns about privacy infringement.
As merely a one-line utterance about a particular person’s preference, the nothing to hide argument is not very compelling.  But stated in a more sophisticated manner, the argument is more challenging.  First, it must be broadened beyond the particular person making it.  When phrased as an individual preference, the nothing to hide argument is hard to refute because it is difficult to quarrel with one particular person’s preferences.  As one commenter aptly notes: By saying “I have nothing to hide,” you are saying that it’s OK for the government to infringe on the rights of potentially millions of your fellow Americans, possibly ruining their lives in the process.  To me, the “I have nothing to hide” argument basically equates to “I don’t care what happens, so long as it doesn’t happen to me.” (p. 751)
Don't we all have at least some part to play in the protection of privacy? Is the sharing that occurs online - educational or not - worth the potential infringements on privacy that such openness might promote?

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