What is Privacy? How is technology changing it? according to Vint Cerf

Vint_Cerf-BAMBULUMVint Cerf , the founding “father of the internet” and Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist said last week at the conference of the Internet of Things that  “privacy  may be an anomaly” and “it will be increasingly difficult for us to achieve privacy.”

His remarks on this subject shocked and created a lot of comments but first I would like to re-explain the context in which Vint Cerf was asked to comment. So, the conference explored how the proliferation of sensors on everything from cars to household devices is fundamentally changing how people live and work – while raising questions of how to best maintain privacy and security in an environment where more and more things are being watched.

Vint Cerf reminded us that the notion of privacy is fairly a modern concept : “Privacy is something which has emerged out of the urban boom coming from the Industrial Revolution,”. Prior to that time, every aspect of living was done collectively and in the full public view. In other words, modern industry created a distinction between what is private and what is public. The latest technological innovations are now changing these notions again. “So I’m not saying that we should not be interested in privacy, but I am suggesting to you that it’s an accident, in some respect, of the urban revolution,” concludes Cerf.

New social behaviours involves the use of social networks. It has become normal to facebook, to tweet, to snapchat friends, to share picture on Instagram (those companies even managed to become verbs of action) thus changing the way we interact with each others and giving a whole new definition to personal information and privacy.

Vint Cerf concluded by saying  “it will be increasingly difficult for us to achieve privacy. The technology that we use today has far outraced our social intuition… [There’s a] need to develop social conventions that are more respectful of people’s privacy.”

Privacy is evolving everyday. To be continued…

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