Saturday, January 9, 2010

Forbes (and me): Privacy dies by 2020

Forbes reporter Quentin Hardy recently knocked off a post on how technology will change the next decade. As I get older, I tend to disbelieve these crystal ball columns. Most of them are flat out wrong. Pundits think the future will look a lot like today because that's all we have to predict the future. But, technology moves in strange ways.

For example, ten years ago it would have been almost impossible to predict Apple cold deliver a device smartphone would put 32 gigs of computing storage in my pocket--and make international phone calls. Oh yeah, and it can manage my music collection. Search was limited to AOL. Google wasn't the new kid on the block; it was a complete unknown to most tech folks. Now, Google dominates the tech world the way Microsoft once did. But, as computing moves off the desktop and into our palms, even Google is searching for a way to control the mobile market.

The rise in Social Media has made us better connected. Facebook, now with 350 million users, a population greater than the United States, has stretched the meaning of friendship, expanding it to mean people you sort of know now and people junior high school chums you used to know real well. No one could have predicted Facebook 10 years ago or even it's current popularity five years ago.

Which brings us to the prediction Hardy has spot on: privacy is dead. Mark Zuckerberg is on a mission to kill, and he has a lot of help from us. I willing log onto Facebook and Twitter, leaving breadcrumbs about my life for anyone to see. Because the Internet makes us more connected, it also makes use more exposed.

In a way, it's a return to life before mobility was introduced, say a couple of hundred years ago when people didn't leave their towns and everyone knew everything about everyone else.
From capitalist perspective, this connectedness and lack of privacy begs the question: how is business going to capitalize on all this information? From a practical stand point, would you want your mother-in-law to follow you on Facebook?

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