In the midst of heated debate
about Facebook and the death of privacy, Cato's Julian Sanchez
has an unusual theory: Facebook and social media may have, in a strange way, increased
While a Googling a name will turn up lots of information, Sanchez allows, it's "significant that the crucial first page of results is likely to consist
of information that the individuals themselves have chosen to make
public: Blogs, Facebook or MySpace profiles, Twitter accounts, Last.fm
pages, YouTube channels." Why it's significant: "A generation ago," he explains, a search for information might have taken more time and yielded less, "but it also would have consisted to a far greater extent of what others
had to say about the target: gossip first and foremost, but perhaps also press mentions, official records, and so on." Facebook, Twitter, and other tools allow us to push third-party information to the margins, replacing it with information "we've chosen to disclose."
Even Sanchez admits this is "not an unmixed blessing," and readers may well disagree with his position--the more-information-equals-more-privacy idea smacks of deliberate contrarianism. But in a well-worn debate, a shift in perspective is always bracing, and Sanchez's logic is forceful. "Privacy," he writes, "is not just a function of the raw quantity
of information available about each of us, but of the control we exercise over that information."
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