Give Me a Little Less Privacy Please

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

Tompkins Weekly 9-30-13

By Alex Colket

There is a lot of concern these days about how the advancement and proliferation of technology is eroding our privacy. Surely, this a disturbing trend with potentially dangerous implications. Sharing personal info online requires striking a delicate balance between risk and benefit that we each need to figure out for ourselves, yet as we do, I’d like to point out that too much privacy has consequences as well.  Many of the physical and cultural barriers that we have erected to protect ourselves from each other seem to also be preventing us from knowing each other, and preventing communities from thriving.

Yes, we need to be careful about guarding any personal information that can be used for nefarious purposes; and yes, no matter what you are sharing on the internet, there should be tools to control who can see it.  Yet within those constraints, I think there is something to be said for living a little more publicly and broadcasting more of what we have to offer, what we need, and what we know. I believe it is worth taking the time to establish an online presence that publicly outlines how you hope to interact with the community, and establishes a degree of trust and familiarity for those who don’t yet know you.  It seems to me that this small sacrifice of privacy could make our world better in many big ways.

If we all knew a little more about the other people around us, how many more meaningful and supportive relationships might be forged?  How many more collaborations would be born and how many opportunities created if we took down some of the fencing guarding our lives and opened ourselves up to interdependence?

As tribes and villages have grown into towns and cities, we have been paying a stiff environmental and social price for our relative independence and isolation.  In modern times, newspapers, bulletins boards, listservs and craigslist have slowly begun to build a public communication hub for communities.  Now, as the technology for publishing, sharing, finding and organizing information is becoming so seamless and accessible, we have a chance to rediscover our communities in ways that are limitless and beautiful.  All we have to do to get there is be willing to share a little more with people we don’t know.

If we are able make this transition towards more public, collaborative living, this behavioral shift will mix with new technologies and fundamentally change how we connect to goods, services, information and people around our communities.  Already, finding a good fit is often as easy as publishing a Facebook status update, and it will only get easier when we have access to a network specifically designed to facilitate communication and collaboration across a city. Before long, algorithms like those currently used to suggest products on Amazon or select items for a Facebook news feed will be used to help us discover the community resources we need most.  As we take this next step, we will have a chance to cultivate an economy where neighborhoods and cities meet our needs more conveniently and economically than the global marketplace ever has, and more importantly, we will have a chance to transition back to a support system that is more environmentally and emotionally sustainable.

Our reliance on the global economy is compromising both our present and our future, and we need to adopt a positive alternative. If we wish to become less dependent on globalization, we need to become more dependent on one another, but to do that, first we need to know a little more about each other.  To achieve resiliency, we need to nourish connectivity, and in some cases, this will mean abandoning some privacy.  New technologies afford us an unprecedented opportunity to catalyze the relationships we’ll need to turn things around, but they can only thrive if we are willing to open our lives a little more to the people around us.

Alex Colket is the owner of Swidjit. For more information go to

If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles