Risks of Overexposure with Google’s new Social Graph

Danah Boyd writes on her blog about the Google "Social Graph API" which could make it easier than ever to overexpose yourself on the web.  Excerpt:

I am worried about the tech industry rhetoric around exposing user
data and connections. This is another case of a decision dilemma
concerning capability and responsibility. I said this ages ago wrt Facebook’s News Feed, but it is once again relevant with Google’s Social Graph API announcement.
In both cases, the sentiment is that this is already public data and
the service is only making access easier and more efficient for the end
user. I totally get where Mark and Brad are coming at with this. I
deeply respect both of them, but I also think that they live in a land
of privilege where the consequences that they face when being exposed
are relatively minor. In other words, they can eat meals of only
chocolate because they aren’t diabetic.

Tim O’Reilly argues that social graph visibility is akin to pain reflex.
Like many in the tech industry, he argues that we have a moral
responsibility to eliminate "security by obscurity" so that people
aren’t shocked when they are suddenly exposed. He thinks that forcing
people to be exposed is a step in the right direction. He draws a
parallel to illness, suggesting that people will develop antibodies to
handle the consequences. I respectfully disagree. Or rather, I think
that this is a valid argument to make from the POV of the extremely
healthy (a.k.a. privileged). As someone who is not so "healthy," I’m
not jumping up and down at the idea of being in the camp who dies
because the healthy think that infecting society with viruses to see
who survives is a good idea. I’m also not so stoked to prepare for a
situation where a huge chunk of society are chronically ill because of
these experiments. What really bothers me is that the geeks get to make
the decisions without any perspective from those who will be
marginalized in the process.

Being socially exposed is AOK when you hold a lot of privilege, when
people cannot hold meaningful power over you, or when you can route
around such efforts. Such is the life of most of the tech geeks living
in Silicon Valley. But I spend all of my time with teenagers, one of
the most vulnerable populations because of their lack of agency (let
alone rights). Teens are notorious for self-exposure, but they want to
do so in a controlled fashion. Self-exposure is critical for the coming
of age process – it’s how we get a sense of who we are, how others
perceive us, and how we fit into the world. We exposure during that
time period in order to understand where the edges are. But we don’t
expose to be put at true risk. Forced exposure puts this population at
a much greater risk, if only because their content is always taken out
of context. Failure to expose them is not a matter of security through
obscurity… it’s about only being visible in context.

Link: just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

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