Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

What We Don’t Know About the Future of the Internet – Part IV

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Lee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project:

What about identity, privacy and surveillance?

lee_rainie 4Rainie said Pew Internet studies on privacy and identity questions have shown conflicting values make it one of the most difficult policy areas to tackle. “Our surveys show that users live in a paradox,” he said.

“They like the empowering aspects of the Internet that permit them to be their own broadcasters, their own publishers, indeed, their own story tellers and culture creators…

“The paradoxical point is that at the same time they are sharing all this material, they say they cherish, privacy, anonymity and the ability to control their identities, even after information about them has passed into others’ hands.

My sense from many of the Internet users we interview – especially the teens – is that they have not fully weighed the pluses and minuses of this volume of disclosure.  – Lee Rainie

He introduced researcher danah boyd’s five properties of individual identity:

1) Persistence – what you say becomes a part of a permanent record.

2) Replicability – digital information can be easily copied and spread far and wide.

3) Searchability – it’s easy to find that which could once be hidden or obscured.

4) Scalability – conversations that were private can spiral out of control and even scale to the whole world. “Contexts are collapsed in this new environment,” Rainie noted.

5) (De)locatability – mobile communication allows you to be dislocated from any particular point in space but, simultaneously, location-based technology can make location relevant thus we are “more and less connected to physical space.”

Rainie predicted that outcomes in this policy area might come from some sort of compromise.

“Some of the policy suggestions will revolve around ideas that promote parallel transparency – if you can watch me, I should be able to watch you watching me,” he said. “And it also might include discussion of opt-out mechanisms that would allow people to step off the digital grid under some circumstances.”

-Janna Anderson,


Written by andersj

October 2, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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