I’m not a huge fan of Stephen Colbert but he occasionally has some very interesting things to say about privacy. The Electronic Freedom Foundation recently highlighted his video article on solving the problem of young people posting things online that they will later regret.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Control-Self-Delete
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

As EFF very creatively put it, “the CEOs of Google and Facebook can be astonishingly tone deaf [about] the privacy of their customers.” To live up to their view of the world, you either have to be a superhuman saint or a faceless drone with a life so boring that you may as well not even exist. They have a financial incentive to set the bar that high because the alternative is to stop them from datamining and profiting from our private information.

Germany is experimenting with some interesting privacy laws which may start to rebalance private and public rights. They have successfully taken on Google Street View and are working on a number of other privacy issues. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the US would or even should follow Germany’s lead but we should watch it carefully.

In the meantime (and in the CEOs’ defense), I have to agree with the core principle that if you would be embarrassed to see it on the front of tomorrow’s newspaper, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. Or at least don’t advertise it by posting the incriminating picture yourself for the whole world to see it.

Leave a Reply