JCL Blog

The Privacy Stack

Leo Laporte and Jeff Jarvis are two of the most public people on the internet.  For those of you not familiar with their disclosures, Leo tweets his weight and Jeff gives regular updates on his experience with prostate cancer and that is just the start of it. This week on TWIT, as they were extolling the virtues of living in public, Jeff asked Leo where he would draw the line on privacy.  The question went unanswered at the time, it was a great show recorded at SXSW with a lot going on and I think Leo may have just missed it.  Either way it is an interesting question that we all should consider.  What is your comfort level with privacy?  I searched for privacy and found several articles about how to keep your data private, the dust up over Buzz and Facebook, but did not see a privacy hierarchy list, or what I have called here the Privacy Stack.  So here is my shot at building a it.  I have started with the stuff that most people would agree to open to the public -- so I guess the stack is up side down -- but you get the idea:

  1. Job Details (things on your business card)
  2. Job or Educational History (things on your BIO or Resume)
  3. Past Performance (Grades, job reviews, details of professional separations)
  4. Identification (Name, address, phone number, email, social security number, birth date)
  5. Transaction (What did you buy, how much did you pay)
  6. Location (Where are you now, where have you been, where are you going to be)
  7. Relationship (Friends, family members, business associates, group affiliations -- past and current)
  8. Interaction (Who did you talk to and what did you say)
  9. Intellectual Property (Writings, images, thoughts, plans)
  10. Contractual (Anything professional or personal covered by a legal document including legal instruments for contracts, divorces, payment plans, agreements of exclusivity)
  11. Financial (Income level, net worth, credit rating, assets, liabilities)
  12. Health (Records of doctor visits and lab tests)

Clearly this idea needs expanding -- including turning it into a matrix because there are degrees to each item.

My though with this privacy stack is that people would be more willing to share the things at the top and less willing to do so with the things at the bottom.  My question to guys like Leo and Jeff is -- where do you draw the line?  

All of this gets much more complicated when you start to think about what information could be made public as a result of your interacting with a person or system that has not drawn the line across the privacy stack in the same place you did.  This is fundamental to the current Facebook / Buzz debate.  If a person thought their email inbox was private, and then found out that it was not, it presents a big problem.  

Item number eight: Interaction, is where this was already an issue in the pre-social media world.  One person (a third grader even) tells another person something with the idea that it would be kept between them and the other person has a different idea about privacy and... well you know the rest.

Google got in trouble because they beta tested Buzz inside the company.  Privacy in a work email environment is much different than otherwise.  If you have an email with a business contract attached that is going back and forth between people at the office, it is much different than the email going back and forth between a client and an attorney with a divorce settlement attached.  Everybody is on the same "friend list" inside a company -- it is called the company directory.  So any issues associated with sharing lists of work friends does not translate to the real world because at work everyone has access to everyone else's work friend list (the same company directory for everyone).

So how much of the stack would you share?  I have to say I start to get out of my comfort zone when I hit number 4-Identification, can't see doing 5-Transaction or 6-Location, and am dabbling in 7-Relationship with Linked In and Facebook, but I am clearly not all in like Leo and Jeff.