By Amy Turner, The Community Roundtable
The right to privacy online is not so clear-cut when debated with the right to free speech. There is much more citizen journalism happening, but laws have been created with traditional publishing institutions in mind. These laws favor the right to free speech, which puts the right to privacy in an uncertain balance. TheCR Network had a sobering discussion about this with Lauren Gelman, Principal & Founder at BlurryEdge Strategies.
The center of the debate is privacy vs. free speech. At its very basic level, an individual’s right to protect his/her privacy interferes with another individual’s right to talk about another person. For example, any right an individual has to stop another individual from publishing a picture that had the first individual in it also stops the second individual from expressing him/herself through that picture. The same holds true in a blog scenario that publishes information about another person. To not publish for privacy reasons infringes on the bloggers right to free speech. The result is a strong tension in the advocacy community about how to balance these interests because the same people who are working on these issues are the chief advocates for both of these conflicting sides.
Below are three best practices that emerged from our discussion with Lauren:
Recognize that all Actions are Public
People do not realize that they are publishing to the world. Perhaps it is because they do not see faces and eyes staring back at them. It gives them a false feeling of anonymity that allows their guard to be lowered. Lauren believes that social network technology tools are designed to keep us ignorant and are designed to incent us to over-share our private information without understanding the full ramifications. These tools benefit from the fact that people do not understand the extent of their audience. The more you tell Facebook about yourself, the more you can get in touch with people who match your criteria. The more you tell LinkedIn, the more accurate their suggested contacts will be. So, all of these platforms are built in a way to incent you to disclose more. The problem is, however, that the law does not see it that way. Always be aware that everybody and anybody can see what it is that you are publishing.
Lauren suggests a tagging regime. In this way, people would be able to tag their published content with certain privacy expectations, such as: “Please do not archive this or cut and paste or publish it in another forum.” The idea behind this is to express a level of privacy sensitivity. That is one of the reasons that the law is so hard-lined in this space. In the real world it is very hard to understand an individual’s privacy sensitivity about something being repeated. So, the same would then hold true for the Internet. The law basically uses what is termed an “objective test.” It assumes that everybody’s privacy sensitivity is the same in that if you tell somebody, you do not have an expectation of privacy. This way, everybody in the world knows what to expect of the law. However, if you are able to tag your Internet content with your privacy sensitivity, then the law has something to work with in order to try and protect people.
Establish a Complaint Mechanism
Currently, there is a “notice and take down regime” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This has established a means for individuals to contact companies if they think their copyright is being violated. Perhaps a similar institution could be established for privacy concerns.
How do you balance the right to free speech and the right to privacy across social media and communities?