Wake up and smell your lost anonymity

December 27, 2007 at 12:57 pm by in design

I for one don’t understand all the uproar about the new Google Shared feature. I posted my shared items as a list on my public blog from day one of using Google Reader, and I have enjoyed followed the shared items of others like Scott Beale of Laughing Squid. I was really happy to see the shared feature expand as suddenly new interesting articles popped up from friend’s shared items. And when I first saw mention of the uproar on Daring Fireball, I was confused.

I mean what did these people think the word “Share” meant? Sure your shared items were very slightly obfuscated behind a unique url, but come on folks! It says right there “Your shared items are publicly accessible.” How can one ever assume from that statement that it was private? Without password protection (even then it’s suspect) your actions are there to find like anything else you do online — get used to it.

It amazes me that a lot of people still assume that they are anonymous online. Well as a certain terrible ad campaign might say, “welcome to the social.” It’s web 2.0 baby! We are now in the era of kids getting expelled for posing as gangbanger wannabes on myspace, cyber-bullying on facebook, and copywrite battles on flickr. You may be home in your underwear surfing on your laptop posting as jackalope1, but for all intents and purposes you might as well be in town square wearing a paper bag on your head while shouting at a security camera with a megaphone.

There are ways to be private online, but you gotta work for anonymity these days — always start with the assumption that nothing you do online is private.

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  1. You’re exactly right. It’s the unpopular viewpoint to take, but when you publicly share a public feed at a public URL, you shouldn’t expect that to be private. During the tumult yesterday, my thoughts were very much in line with yours. (Forget About Privacy. Embrace Openness.)

    But then… Google Reader blinked. I don’t feel like we won anything through their capitulation.

  2. I went and read your posts Louis. Good commentary.

    I think it’s funny that some people feel they “won” by google offering their last minute shared items management trick (which seems rather jury-rigged). When frankly, they really won by making it easier to find and read friend’s shared feeds. Humans– especially your friends — make the best filters.

    Personally, I’m hoping that they come out with more flexible social functionality. I’d like to add friends to my shared reader that don’t have to be in my gmail address book (or I in theirs).