Pip Cockburn wrote an essay about how among other things: .1% of the long tail is directing privacy issues online, and how those who do care about privacy are judgmental about those who don't, etc. Read it.. it's an interesting take.
This is my response to Pip and his arguments and ideas:
One, there are a lot of studies on privacy issues that show that most people don't want to spend the time to understand or defend it, but if one percent of the populace, that the other 99% cede their interest in privacy to and are trusted, express distrust of something, the other 99% will follow. Chris Kelly, privacy czar at Facebook, has conducted some of those studies and therefore probably saw the tipping point coming and urged retreat. Just a guess, but that was my interpretation of what Facebook may have been discussing internally.
Two, digital natives or kids or whatever you want to call younger folks do care about privacy once they discover a breach. They often don't understand what is happening until it's too late. And to ride a stereotype that has a lot of truth to it, when we are young, we often don't think as long term or at our vulnerabilities as well as when we get a little older and have a bit more experience.
So dismissing those kid's now, at this point in time, when the first digital natives haven't hit their thirties, is premature. As they mature, I think they will care more and take on similar trust relationships with the 1% who will monitor privacy issues. When I tell 15 year olds about privacy issues, they get pretty scared and conservative about protecting it. So my anecdotal evidence is that they care more than most older folks think. For now, many just don't understand and see what effect they are having over time.
Three, having noted your .1% as directing the long tail of "consumers" (I hate that word too), I still think the writing was on the wall for Facebook reaching the 1% who really care and having a worse problem than they do now. When I worked for a congressman, we used to "count" correspondence with our constituents in the following ways: those who took easy and inexpensive routes to tell us their opinions might get a 1x or 10x count, but those who took the time to express in detail, or followed more expensive or harder routes were given 50x or 100x counts. Well, if .01% are taking the expensive or time consuming routes (blogging, writing your complaint up in your own words, etc) or less expensive routes (joining the Facebook group made by MoveOn -- which requires clicking on a button or clicking a DIGG button) well.. we still have to count those folks as believing in the premise that Facebook violates privacy and social norms with users with the Beacon system as originally configured. The question is, how much do we count the activists. If you apply the multiple to certain harder actions, you get a lot closer to the 1% factor that Chris Kelly found can define and shape what the other 99% feel is appropriate when it comes to privacy issues.
I don't think that means a tiny percent of people are dictating policy, I think that means that they have achieved trust by the other 99% (more so than the advertisers and Facebook, in this case) and therefore the 99% have spoken by following the 1%. Power relationships are never onesided in favor of the dominant or leaders. Enrollment is a concept sociologists like Bruno LaTour know well and respect. Those who follow in this example do so because they enrolled. Facebook wouldn't have budged otherwise.
Lastly, I don't think this relationship regarding privacy issues where 99% are willing to cede to the 1% they trust on these issues applies to other areas. We've seen over and over how this privacy based relationship falls off on other issues around digital and other rights, like copyright abuses by traditional media, or other complicated issues like the DMCA. So I don't think we have to fear that a small percentage will continue to direct all policy on or offline.
My 2 cents.Posted by Mary Hodder at December 13, 2007 07:45 AM | TrackBack