The End of Privacy

In a word, Google Glass. Ok, that’s two words, but let’s move on. Right now, today, you can buy what appear to be glasses (for vision correction) with a little extra hardware on the temple. This device feeds live video wherever you want. It could be a mobile device in your pocket. It could be a laptop, desktop, or embedded machine. Wherever you want it, that video is available if you so allow. You could record nearly all of your waking life in HD, streaming from your glasses to your mobile device to a web service. Once in the cloud, you can share it with anyone you want. You can even publish it for all to see. So that’s you.

What about the other seven billion people on the planet? Today, you can buy this and use it wherever you want (except for public bathrooms, where that is fortunately a felony, at least in America). If one can buy, so will thousands. What do we do when YouTube, Second Life, and Tour Wrist intersect? How do you protect your privacy when you don’t control the video stream that recorded you? All the signs indicate we’re at the foot of a massive mountain of innovation, staring up at Kurtzweil’s notion of a social/technological singularity. In a year, your phone, laptop, television, and car will be obsolete. Then, the cycle repeats exponentially faster, until at some point, we all experience a shift in collective perspective. We will no longer consider our own privacy as something that can be threatened. We will be open, or at least as open as we want to be.

Mechanisms for authenticating and authorizing access have exploded in the last 5yrs.¬†Using these systems, people are sharing text, photos, and video all over the world, but only with those to whom they wish to offer access. There will always be a reason to keep secrets, but we will certainly soon encounter a scenario where people start exposing information as free publicly available data. Despite some protests, Facebook’s standard policy is to prefer proliferation of information over compartmentalization. Facebook has been a lightning rod for social and ethical commentary on privacy. They have weathered the storm, and as much as I hate myself for saying it, Zuck will lead the moral majority in twenty years. And beyond that, even Kurtweil can’t predict…