Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to present to you two exhibits.
Here is Exhibit A from today’s International Herald Tribune:
In contrast (Exhibit B) we have the same exact article, but with a completely different headline:
Now, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how the latter is a more accurate or more appropriate title for the article, which is ostensibly about Google’ acquisition of Jaiku.
But, for some reason, the editor of the NY Times piece decided that it would — what? — sell more papers? — to use a more incendiary and moreover misleading headline for the story.
Here’s why I take issue: I’m quoted in the article. And here’s where the difference is made. This is how the how the article ends:
“To date, many people still maintain their illusion of privacy,” he said in an e-mail message.
Adapting will take time.
“For iPhone users who use the Google Maps application, it’s already a pain to have to type in your current location,” he said. “‘Why doesn’t my phone just tell Google where I am?’ you invariably ask.”
When the time is right and frustrations like this are unpalatable enough, Mr. Messina said, “Google will have a ready answer to the problem.”
Consider the effect of reading that passage after being lead with a headline like “Google’s Purchase of Jaiku Raises New Privacy Issues” versus “Will Google take the mobile world of Jaiku onto the Web?” The latter clearly raises the specter of Google-as-Big-Brother while ignoring the fallacy that privacy, as people seem to understand it, continues to exist. Let’s face it: if you’re using a cell phone, the cell phone company knows where you are. It’s just a matter of time before you get an interface to that data and the illusion that somehow you gave Google (or any other third party) access to your whereabouts.
I for one do not understand how this kind of headline elevates or adds to the discourse, or how it helps people to better understand and come to gripes with the changing role and utility of their presence online. While I do like the notion that any well-engineered system can preserve one’s privacy while still being effective, I contend that it’s going to take a radical reinterpretation of what we think is and isn’t private to feel secure in who can and can’t see data about us.
So, to put it simply, there are no “new” privacy issues raised by Google’s acquisition of Jaiku; it’s simply the same old ones over and over again that we seem unable to deal with in any kind of open dialogue in the mainstream press.