Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Future of Privacy on the Generative Net

By Cathy Freeman

You look for top-rated sellers when you browse eBay, right? And before you buy on Amazon, don’t you take a look at all the ratings and reviews that might influence your decision to buy that gaudy curtain rod? Every time you Google something, you instinctively click on the top search results, because you know that is the precedent set by the majority of people just as curious as you. And we have come to value peer-edited Wikipedia just as much as our old-school leather bound Encyclopedia Britannica – maybe even more so (keep in mind the fact that everyone can say anything about anyone, including you).

Our Internet livelihoods depend on reputation. And reputation management in turn depends on organization, continuity and old-fashioned honesty – attributes some would say are in short supply on today’s generative web. The generative quality of the Internet allows for infinite editors and innovators and ultimately we sacrifice control for creativity’s sake.

This week I read an interesting take on this dilemma in Jonathan Zittrain’s book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. Zittrain warns, “The kinds of search systems that say which people are worth getting to know and which should be avoided, tailored to the users querying the system, present a set of due process problems far more complicated than a state-operated system, or, for that matter, any system operated by a single party.”

In other words, where structure is lacking there is a greater privacy risk. As Zittrain puts it, “The generative capacity to share data and to create mash-ups means that ratings and rankings can be far more emergent – and far more inscrutable.”

So generativity is here to stay. How can we preserve precious privacy and structure requisites while giving up the reins?


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Online reputation management: exercising your digital “do not disturb” sign

Have you ever “Googled” yourself or your company?

If you haven’t, you should. Online personas are detailed, traceable and permanent. In a world of constant posting, commenting and uploading, we have lost control of our reputations.

Deep breath.

I recently finished reading Daniel Solove’s book The Future of Reputation. In it, he discusses the migration of conversation to social networks. More than ever, we’re losing our ability to control what is made public about us. But, that isn’t really the problem. According to Solove, “the problem is that these sites are not designed in ways to emphasize the potential harms to privacy and other consequences. Cyberspace is the new place to hang out, the perils of exposure notwithstanding.”

It’s true. In today’s climate of viral content, public defamation can be toxic and even deadly. So what are we going to do about it? We’re taking back the night. Maintain your online credibility by actively defending your privacy and staying in tune with the conversation. Try some of these FREE reputation management tools to stay in touch with your runaway online rep:

Google Alerts – It couldn’t get much easier than this free service that sends you an email every time your keyword is mentioned on the web.

Technorati – Search your keyboard for blog mentions with this search engine.

Twitter Search – This simple search engine allows you to enter a keyboard and browse real-time mentions on Twitter.

Who Links to Me – Understand your realm of influence by monitoring anyone who links to you.

monitorThis – Consider this your one stop shop. MonitorThis searches photos, tags, blogs, news, articles, microblogs, videos and websites from 26 different search engine feeds.

Rapleaf – Rapleaf lets you trace your online footprint. Users contribute to your online score, so create an account to start managing your privacy.

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