Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Expanding Linkosphere

It seems like every day we're seeing various information that we've stored away for our own benefit being open up and linked to others in new ways. Now, I'm not referring here to clearly personal data that's being disclosed and compiled against our wishes--inadvertently or otherwise. That's a different topic. Rather, I'm referring here to how we're steadily opening up our wishlists, our bookmarks, and our movie rental lists for all the world to see.

A whole crop of tools has sprouted up to syndicate Amazon wishlists. "I want this, what do you want?" ("Or, please, buy me this!") What started out as more of a personal organization tool--the list of things that I might want to buy someday--is increasingly something to show off to others. del.icio.us and its brothers are even more explicitly communal. They provide a place on the web to store and organize your bookmarks--an increasingly useful concept in these days when people commonly use multiple computers and tyerminals from a panoply of locations. But, in exchange, you bookmarks are exposed as are the way you categorize them using tags - essentially keywords, but explicitly communal.

Now Netflix is the latest to provide an option to make the individual organization part of a collective pool of preferences and predilictions. You can now invite friends to share their movie list queues with you and you with them. Know someone whose taste in film you like, or at least intrigues you, share a list with them. Cool idea.

At the same time, it's impossible not to think that we're rushing pell-mell into throwing a huge amount of at least moderately private information here. Perhaps as Sun CEO Scott McNealy famously said once: "You have no privacy, get over it." much to the consternation of privacy advocates everywhere.

To be sure, that line was a typically McNealy-ian one line zinger; elsewhere he's spoken on the subject in a more nuanced way. But his zinger as a clear kernel of truth as well. The plugged-in are, for the most part, far less private than they've ever been before.

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