Torill usefully connects my dislike of MyBlogLog’s use of my personal information on third party websites to the recent uproar over Facebooks unilateral change of their displays of personal information, or fittingly, information about connections between people. Dennis Jerz quotes Wired:

But as the Facebook example illustrates, privacy is much more complex. It’s about who you choose to disclose information to, how, and for what purpose. And the key word there is “choose.” People are willing to share all sorts of information, as long as they are in control.

When Facebook unilaterally changed the rules about how personal information was revealed, it reminded people that they weren’t in control. (Bruce Schneier: “Lessons from the Facebook Riots”, Wired, Sept 21 2006)

My initial reaction to seeing my face collected in a public list of “readers of this site” was anger because I hadn’t chosen that. MyBlogLog was using my personal information in a way that the site had not informed me of when I signed up. Thinking more about it, I think such things have further ethical ramifications that we should be wary of – do we really want to live in a society where our everyday movements are so carefully tracked that everything we do can be interpreted? I like living in a world where I can read a book or a blog or walk into a specialised shop or talk with a person without that being logged and displayed to the world as though it were a political statement or a gesture of support for whatever that book or blog or newspaper or shop argues or stands for.

This, perhaps, is the true meaning of privacy: the right to choose which of your actions are up to public scrutiny. Or at least to know when you’re entering a zone in which your actions are public. If I assume that every blog I read is tracking and publicly displaying the fact that I have read, I’m going to read very differently, and perhaps not at all.

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