Privacy and VRM

In Privacy is Relative my column in May’s Linux Journal, I wrote,

there are essentially two forms of privacy. One is the kind where you hide out. You minimize exposure by confining it to yourself. The other is where you trust somebody with your information.

In order to trust somebody, you need a relationship with them. You’re their spouse, friend, client or patient.

This isn’t so easy if you’re just a customer, or worse, a “consumer”. There the obligation is minimized, usually through call centers and other customer-avoidance mechanisms that get only worse as technology improves. Today, the call center wants to scrape you off onto a Web site or a chat system.

Minimizing human contact isolates your private information inside machines that have little interest in relating to you as a human being or in putting you in contact with a human being inside the company. Hence, your data is indeed safe—from you. It’s also safe from the assumption that this data might in any way also belong to you—meaning, under your control. It’s still private, but only on the company’s terms. Not on yours.

This mess can’t be fixed just by humanizing call centers. It can be fixed only by humanizing companies. This has to be done from both inside and out.

There isn’t enough room in a column like that to unpack that last statement. But there is in a thread like this one, if you’re game.

2 Comments

  1. This is a huge perceptual shift and sea change, especially given that many large companies deliberately dehumanise their staff, and create intentional detachement via regulation, scripts, rules and systems purposely designed to remove their nature and common sense from the decision making process.

    So the challenge within companies is both attitudinal (ie. how do people percieve their roles and those of their peers), and systemic (how do the systems incorporated into an organisation shape the behaviours of the people within it). Behavioural change within large organisations is notoriously difficult,however I’d be interested to get this guy (http://architectures.danlockton.co.uk/2009/04/06/the-design-with-intent-toolkit/) and this guy (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/barry_schwartz_on_our_loss_of_wisdom.html) into the discussion on how that might be done. First however we would need to define what the desirable “human” behaviours are and align (or demonstrate alignment) with corporate goals.

    In terms of actually humanizing companies themselves, I believe that there is a law which states that companies be treated as individuals in terms of rights in the eyes of the law. However this treatment doesn’t appear to extend to responsibilities. A legal framework is required to assign human responsibilities to corporations (a problem highlighted in the corporation (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Corporation-DVD/dp/B000P1KTEQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1245190162&sr=8-1)).

    To be continued….

  2. This is a rare information. Thanks for sharing it

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