It's Reputation, Not Privacy, That Really Matters to People

An Intel anthropologist argues that people are worried their technologies will reveal they are "dreadful dorks"

DivningADigitalFuture-Post.jpg

Genevieve Bell is an anthropologist who works for Intel, trying to design the humans back into our technologies. She's got a new book out, Divining a Digital Future, so New Scientist interviewed her about her work. The interview goes largely how you'd expect, with Bell talking about how important narratives are to people using technology and the differences in mindset between your average person and an engineer. But at the bottom, she makes a really interesting comment about privacy. She says that privacy is not as big a deal as it was 10 years ago, despite the widespread perception that privacy concerns are on the rise.

Privacy was a big issue a decade ago. Today, people are more worried about reputation. We tested people with future scenarios, such as if your smart television could update your Facebook page about what you're watching. No one liked it. People said things like, "My girlfriend put the show on and left the room" or "I've only ever watched it once". We talk about the content we watch as part of who we are. One of the biggest anxieties we have about these technologies is that they reveal what we're really up to - what dreadful dorks we are.

I think the distinction she's making is that in a privacy framework, people are worried that outsiders will find out you've done something wrong, or even that people or governments will have any access at all. Reputation concern is narrower and focuses solely around whether or not people find out uncool things about you. I wonder if privacy policy advocates could score points by hitting the reputation button, even if they have greater concerns.

Image: The MIT Press.

Presented by

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Technology

Just In