The web 2.0 mystery: Why what were considered as private data before are now volontary shared

New kind information on internet: user-related data
Because of the democratisation of Internet and its new social aspect, the network is becoming less anonymous and the nature of the information has evolved with a new kind of information: people-related data. Compared to the nature of the data at the beginning of internet when it was considered as a global library (topic-related data), this new kind of information available allows the creation/evolution of services and usages, like the current war of the people-search engines [1]. This “humanisation” of internet is getting more visible with the famous web2.0 phenomena (even if it’s not so new as mentionned in a previous post[6]).

Public exposition of personal data
one of the main property of the web2.0 is this trend of voluntary sharing personal data with the rest of world: see what I like, what I do , see my social network. Public online services like del.icio.us, Flickr, LastFm, the blogs, google calendar, etc.. help to manage what people traditionally kept on their personal machines —respectively bookmarks, photos, music preferences, diary, agenda. It could be just a new way to manage personal data, accessible everywhere (online management), but these data are also mainly accessible by everyone, publiquely shared in communities. Why are these private data now volontary shared?

Two main explanations
For my point of view this trend of transparency in the web is not so much due to a change of mind. It can be explained by two main factors:

  • A need to exist/to be visible on this new extension of the reality:At its beginning Internet was considered only as the world’s biggest library. But this image is changing. The people work, communicate, live more and more on internet, spending sometimes more time online than offline during a day. The separation between the offline world and the online one becomes more fuzzy (it’s also due to the convergence/interoperability of the communication network: offline(Mobile) and online communication (IM,email,VOIP) devices are now connected). From this integration in their life, the people feel the need to create an online representation of their identities, be more visible in this dimension of the reality. “They want to ensure their place as a live node on the global network”[2]. Exposing personal data (who I am) is a consequence of this change.
  • Try to solve collectively common and large problems: sharing collectively private data can also help to solve common problems. The people participate in what we call the “human based computation” or “human collective intelligence” allowing to solve complex problem by a collaborative process. For instance, the most obvious problem on internet is the information overload. One of the purpose and success of the web2.0 communities is their social mechanisms like the collaboration filtering systems[4] by recommanding information to a user if other users having the same profil have liked it (more generally a kind of word of mouth system for a social affinity network level or a profil affinity network) or by a global voting system allowing emergent and socially filtered information.

About privacy
But one of the big problem of the web2.0 is about controlling of these data[4]. The user is not the owner on his personal data. He doesn’t control them (can he delete his own data on the google servers, or on recommendation web services like Amazon? no). That’s also why collecting and indexing data, as does Google, is getting a much more critical process than before , and why Google begins to be perceived as Big Brother (the most recent case is the acquisition of doubleclick[5]).

References:
[1]War of the people-search
[2]Continuous partial attention
[3]Collective intelligence
[4]collaborative filtering
[5]Web 2.0 Is About Controlling Data
[5]Google and Privacy
[6]Interaction overload: your friend the computer as mediator for the communication 2.0
[7]ISPs Sell Clickstreams For $5 A Month

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