Can “Poke” be a new model for thinking about privacy?

The comments at the end of Mike Elgan’s Computerworld article caught my attention because of the views on privacy.  In his post, he discusses the notion of privacy settings and not keeping messages and pictures forever.  He feels there should be more functionality like the new Poke feature that has an expiration for content, and this should be built into our social networking.  The commenters were not looking at it that way.

After the flap from Randi Zuckerberg about a photo of hers that was released, privacy is again being discussed with the addition of “decency.”   However, several of the comments at the end of the article don’t seem to support this view.  The general consensus was that you shouldn’t expect privacy on the Internet at all. Privacy settings were discussed and an app to delete content after a finite amount of time identified as a possible solution, but the reaction was still everything should be expected to be public.  Many people have cautioned for years that there is no privacy on the Internet, and that idea has taken hold to a large extent.  People are now cognizant of the fact that pictures, posts, tweets, etc can come back to haunt you if you aren’t careful.  But that has meant be careful whom you “friend” and of what your privacy settings are for your social networking platform, as much as not posting something you wouldn’t want around in a few years.

It may not be from the readers of this Computerworld post, but I think that there is still quite a bit of interest in having some expectation of privacy on the Internet.  Otherwise, there wouldn’t be the seemingly constant uproar when FB changes its privacy settings.  And this could make Poke a very popular feature, not just for teens who want to “sext,” but for people who want to have some measure of reliable control over their communication with their specific audience.  As Mike Elgan points out, forgetting is a valuable thing, and not having posts around for posterity can be very beneficial, not just for individuals but for everyone.  It gives control and choice.

This idea seems to run counter to the way the Internet was constructed, the evolution of the Cloud, and the all or nothing idea that if it’s on the web, it’s there forever.  Yes, the archival potential of the Internet is amazing, but the potential downside of what that means has been a painful education over the last several years.  The next step in our collective use and understanding of the Internet could be that we not only expect, but demand that we have more control over not only what is public, but what stays and for how long. This will modify the growing acceptance that everything has the potential to be retrieved forever regardless of what you do.

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