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A mutual break-up with privacy

I used to be pretty intensely private about my life, at least when it came to sharing online. That started to change for me when I met Twitter, and slowly and tentatively started putting a little more of myself in the public eye with each tweet.

I’ve been exploring the new Timeline view in Facebook, and I love it.

I did, however, have a peek at what the ‘public’ sees when they visit my profile. Turns out a lot, despite my tight settings. Typical. I suppose this is the way things are going.

There’s a war on privacy here, and I’m giving up the fight. And I’m going to try to do it amicably.

Instead of fretting every time Facebook purportedly changes their layout and along with it, your sharing settings, I’m making my profile pretty much public to the world, and, as I would always be anyway, being mindful of what I post.

There’s not really much here any more that I wouldn’t have posted on Twitter anyway, and I realise that anything posted with even the most privacy settings is never guaranteed to stay that way.

This goes hand in hand with my more open ‘friending’ policy I’ve adopted over the last couple of years, as well as the increasing blending of my personal and professional lives.

I’ve made this point before: If I get turned down for a job, or turn off a potential partner because of something I’ve posted in the past, I probably am better off without that company or person.

It helps that I work and live in the tech world (as opposed to law or finance, where this kind of attitude is generally looked down upon), where my colleagues, peers and dates tend to live just as publicly as me, if not more.

In exchange for my private data over the years, I’ve had access to the fantastic services rendered by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Google, including not only a massive suite of tools to manage myself, my data, and my relationships, but also the creation of a digital experience that’s moulded to me.

I’ve gotten strange looks when I’ve said this in the past, but I like highly targeted ads. I’ve always liked advertising in general, but I love when an ad speaks to me, reminds me to do or buy something I probably had an interest in anyway, and allows me to interact with it.

So no, I don’t worry about my privacy, and I’m happy that we’re parting ways maturely and on such good terms.

But what do I worry about?

I worry about building a filter bubble I’ll never be able to see beyond, or scarily, realise that I’m even in. I like that my digital life is relevant to me, but I don’t want to be left ignorant of important events, news or knowledge just because some algorithms determine it’s not the type of thing I’d click on.

I hope to see a rebellion here, a series of services I can hook my existing digital self into that will help me explore the world outside my bubble without getting drowned in information.

More than anything, I worry about not owning any of this data. I realised the other day that my Facebook profile is among my most prized possessions – my contacts, my history, everything I’ve said and all of these cherished messages from friends for the last few years – and it’s something I don’t even own. In a snap, all of that history and information could be taken away, and I would be rendered heartbroken, as if someone had burned boxes full of my photo albums, diaries, and little black books.

Unlike other aspects of this greater issue of privacy, this data ownership is something that I can at least do a little something about. I’m going to be making an effort to publish more to here and push to my networks rather than the other way around. Now that my networks are essentially open to the world, I’m going to treat them like subscription channels into various aspects of my life, all fed from a central repository of all of the stuff I create online.

I look forward to being a whole lot more open with the world. As many of you already know, it states on my personal business card: Follow me, friend me, call me.

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