Transition periods are the worst: technology, privacy and injunctions

Technology is disrupting privacy in a way that we can’t fight back from, will it all be easier once we just accept it?

Transitional times are the worst. Much like the music industry trying to retain their existing business model based on recorded music, or broadcasters using DRM to maintain rights windows on content that is transmitted in-the-clear; it’s always difficult to move on. Once you’ve accepted change, it might not be as easy as it was before, but you’re at least not fighting the inevitable.

We’re currently fighting that battle with privacy. As people tag us in Facebook, other people check us into insalubrious venues, we’re stuck in an ongoing battle to remove things that we don’t want stuck to our profile. We hide behind privacy settings on sites, only to watch a friend share a private RSS feed or one poorly-written API client leaking all the information to google. Our friends re-tweet from private accounts disclosing partially-incriminating thoughts. Strangers can sometimes see one-side of a conversation, not enough to know exactly what was said, but certainly enough for my mum to admonish me for some months ago.

Today we’ve had fun with super-injunctions, Twitter and parliamentary privilege. English courts trying to uphold rulings that Scotland and the Peoples’ Republic of Twitter are not subject to. And sure the identity of CTB is a nice bit of gossipy tittle-tattle, but what about when it’s the name of someone accused of a serious crime?

Our reporting restrictions are far more extensive than those of America, and while I don’t want to routinely have ‘perp-walks’ in the UK, I’d rather not have trials abandoned because our protections are unworkable in the modern world.

Away from the legal sphere, with the rise of computer vision and recognition projects, (look at the flurry of activity around the Kinect), and the availability of powerful on-demand computing resources (like GPU heavy instances from Amazon), privacy will soon be a problem that can be brute-forced away. Facebook is already rolling out photo recognition (this does seem to be taking longer than most of their phased roll-outs as I know a few people who had it months ago).

Embarrassing images we thought ‘anonymous’ because the face wasn’t shown will be tied down to people through bizarre combinations of EXIF tags, 3d room mapping, carpet recognition and host of other recognition metric that I can’t even imagine. That mole on your chest will no longer just be a minor cancer risk; it’s a data point that can be correlated.

Anyway, we’re in the transitional phase: We’re still trying to hold onto old-models of privacy which in a few years won’t be possible to have without moving to the “Google Opt-Out town“.

The other side of this transition we’ll probably have less privacy, but nobody will really have privacy, and somehow that will make it alright – that or we’ll have to change our names after we leave university, and dispose of all of our electrical devices, have that mole removed, and if we want to run for political office be very careful what we get up-to at college.

In defence of new style RTs

a defence of new-style re-tweets on twitter.

This article talks about how “old-style” non-API retweets are where it’s at, and that you shouldn’t use the new ones. I couldn’t object more.

While I get that you can’t add commentary when you do an API-retweet, I’d argue that not using them is rude:

  • I can’t mute you if you RT too much, which I can with API retweets. (Good luck though in winning that meal in a mid-market chain restaurant)
  • My stream gets ‘clogged’ if multiple people I follow RT the same thing; with the API RT, I only see it once
  • That old-style RT you just did of a private account, thanks for ‘leaking’ that; new style RTs won’t let you RT something that’s private
  • By the time 3 people have RT’d something the old way, the URL at the end is truncated and doesn’t go anywhere, and you can’t easily get back to the original tweet

Seriously, not using new style-RTs is just impolite, and if you’re impolite people are going to stop following you.

The Real Test if Old Spice gets the Internet

Updated: Sure the @oldspice videos have been funny, but this voicemail generator showed just how well they get the internet.

Update: Was done with their encouragement.

Sure the @oldspice videos have been funny, but if this voicemail generator is not part of the campaign, how they handle it will be the real reflection of how well they get the internet. @oldspice played along with this voicemail generator and showed they “got it”

I’ve seen followers on twitter saying things like “@oldspice wins the internet”, and their video responses to people tweeting by the actor in their adverts have been generally funny, and impressive for really engaging with people. The knowledge behind comments addressed to the founders of Digg and Twitter gave them decent internet gravitas.

Enter now the Oldspice Voicemail generator: now I don’t know if it’s something that somebody has genuinely done by someone else, or if it’s just another part of this oh-so-viral campaign (I’m a little too tired to go digging properly, so I wouldn’t be surprised). If it is an external thing, how they handle it will be the real indication if they “get” the “internet”.

Don’t go slapping a take-down notice, as you’ll replace a load of Win with an Epic Legal Fail.

They set the campaign free, I suspect this will be the textbook “how to merge big campaign with social media” example for a few years. Look forward to a many piss-poor imitations.

On content consumption and twitter

The rise of the likes of twitter make what your friends are doing more relevant to when you watch television – how can broadcasters harness this to increase the incidents of “event tv”

Since I got back I’ve found myself watching far less television than when I went away, my laptop has replaced the telly as my “ongoing background distraction”. (Radio4 has also made a welcome return in that role)

The only things I really have as appointment televisions are some reality shows like the Apprentice and some other far crappier programming that for reasons of reputation I’ll not divulge – and the thing I’m enjoying is tweeting along with my friends.

Commercial broadcasters must love this, because suddenly I’ve a reason to watch live, and take in the adverts. The BBC has the Predictor for the Apprentice, but aside from a Myspace, I’ve not seen things like this for commercial channels.

Anyway, since my friends who watch this show aren’t watching tonight, I’ve no reason watch live and am timeshifting to zip through without the adverts.

Who’s going to the be first broadcaster to put up a suggested #hashtag at the beginning of a show?