8 Privacy Observations: All Your “Surface Information” are Belong to Us

Photo cred: Frog Design

Woah…Are you crazy bro? You’re going to check in?! But, everyone will know where you are! What if they want to rape or rob or…omg… what if there’s a creepy stalker dude just following you everywhere taking pictures to use in internet sex pornos?!

…wait, you don’t care?

1. “Surface information” is public property.

To this point, we’ve known privacy to mean that ONLY the people that we choose to bring in, will know things like your middle name, your location, the things you like, the things you hate, where you go at night, and who “it’s complicated” with…

We’ll call this “surface information“.  Surface information is the demographics of an individual.  It’s the type of stuff you add to your facebook profile.  If you’re still holding on to that information like it’s the key to your humanity…give up.

This information is no longer private. Privacy as we knew it is dead.

2. The kids and their rap music.

Think millenials are the ones changing the concept of privacy? Just wait…  Millenials’ children will have an entirely different view of privacy.  They’ll know the “innovative” platforms of today as the norm.  They’ll be raised with the understanding that their surface information is not their own but rather that of their networks.

There is a clear human need to share and connect that, with social sites like facebook and twitter, has knocked our previous perception of privacy and interaction on its ass.  I’ve witnessed this transformation throughout my life.  I can only imagine what’s in store for my kids…although if I have a daughter, she’s going to be locked in her room until she’s 18 and all tweets will have to be approved.

3.  The tools are coming.

So now that we know people love to share stuff, and connect with people based on the stuff they share, we will continue to build tools that allow for this human need to flourish.

As more tools are created to connect people and share information, more people will connect, and more information will be openly shared.

Foursquare is a new generation of technology that allows people to share information.

And it won’t stop there.  An interesting new startup was born out of Startup Weekend NYC recently.  It’s called Data Dough, and it allows people to “Take back the CASH companies like facebook and twitter make off of YOUR data!”.  People already love to share useless shit about themselves.  Imagine if they could actually make money by doing so…  Privacy what?

4. Businesses are starting to see the value in social platforms.

This means they’re more willing to pay to reach people on social platforms.  This means social platforms are more willing to sell your information.

When facebook made some this stuff automatically public, people had a fucking conniption. It was the end of the world. Our sacred information was just out there for anyone to have their way with.

Thing is, this information really isn’t worth much to us and is no longer considered worthy of hiding. In fact, we want people to know this stuff. We want others to know who we know, who we hang out with and as much of this “surface level” information as possible.

It actually makes our lives better when businesses know our tastes.  I can stop getting shitty ads about losing 50 pounds in 5 days and start getting more shitty ads about getting 20000 twitter followers in 15 minutes.  Much more targeted.

5. It’s not up to you.

You can try your best to control all of your surface information.  Unfortunately, we’re in an age where information is very often, crowdsourced.  That means that if you don’t post up pictures of yourself, someone else will. Anything you do or say in public is fair game on the social web.  So  unless you want to live like a hermit, you’re probably just going to have to accept it.

6. Augmented reality + facial recognition = everyone knows everyone at the surface.

Check out the image at the top of this post and the other sweet designs that Frog design came up with for augmented reality in our day-to-day lives.  Now realize, that the technology already exists, and this is not too far away.  The potential implications are vast, and will undoubtedly, redefine our perception of privacy in the next 10 years.

7. But don’t worry, you’re relatively safe.

As  documentation technology becomes increasingly engrained in society, the ability to do evil without being caught decreases greatly.  There are more eyes watching you so it’s harder to commit crimes without being seen.  More eyes watching means more information can be safely shared.

Try mugging someone in a major city and running away.  You’ll be more evidentially fucked than BP on earth day.

8. Real secrets are still yours to keep…even more so!

Privacy is becoming black and white. Some things you share with everyone, and other things you share with no one.  That means that the information you hold near and dear to your heart are more safe than ever.


People think that because they know your surface information, that they know who you are.  People are lazy, and so if they can convince themselves that they know everything about a person from checking their facebook page and a quick google search, they won’t dig much deeper.

That’s all I got.  You might disagree but it’s a clear trend in my eyes.  What are your thoughts? …or are you keeping them a secret?  Smart ass.

15 thoughts on “8 Privacy Observations: All Your “Surface Information” are Belong to Us

  1. In the digital technology community I think there is increasing concern about people getting “non-surface-information,” such as credit card numbers, location, social security numbers, etc. The reason for this concern stems from the fact that digital technology is increasingly moving “to the cloud,” and many people such as the Googleoids and Ray Ozzie, chief software architect of Microsoft, envision a future altogether in the cloud, with all of your information, surface or otherwise, up there. Thus they want to be sure that this information is protected from “cloud bandits” in the up-coming “cloud era.” There are a lot of videos about this from the most recent All Things Digital conference (can be found on the All Things Digital Website).

    1. Truth. I didn’t get into the growth of the cloud too much in this post but it’s absolutely a huge game changer in the privacy discussion. People are becoming more comfortable putting their information online. How long until our financial and other information below the surface info exists online. It’s not always about what you choose to share, it’s also about what you can protect.

      Thanks for the comment Josh.

  2. Nice points. I agree with you on the most part, but allow me to retort.

    A majority of the people who are on networks like Facebook are under-educated about who collects the information, who’s sold that information, what they’re using it for, etc. Money has to be made, so selling ad space based on user-info seems logical.

    However, cybercrime is growing more and more each year. With this information being sold to an increasing amount of vendors, it’s only a matter of time before somebody uses this information with more sinister intentions than ad research (I’m not saying that ad research is sinister, just that this information can be used by criminals just as easy as by ad companies).

    Your overall message of be responsible and smart about what you share is the most rational suggestion. People need to remember that just because you don’t share something you consider private, that doesn’t mean that your friends won’t.

    1. That all depends on the type of information being shared. If you’re referring to cybercrime in stealing financial information, then yes this will always be a risk that you need to be careful with.

      As far as “surface” information, what sinister actions could take place as a result of access to this info?

  3. “Sinister” was too strong a word.

    These lists open the doors to more unwanted solicitations. With more of these solicitations being sent out, more people who are unaware of this type of activity are going to be targeted. This may be kind of a “doom-and-gloom” mindset, but this worries me that what you call “surface information” is ever changing.

    Basically, I’m hoping that we can continue to have a “choice” in what we make public and what we keep to ourselves. That’s becoming harder and harder since the “choice” of privacy doesn’t lie with just the individual anymore.

  4. I think the sticking point that most people is the lack of choice in the matter. It’s not that the it’s being used against them or something ‘evil’, rather, that it’s beyond their control. The web is growing to a point that it’s almost impossible to stay off it. We forget that privacy has always been one of the most important things that we’ve put a value on in the US. Being so quick to give it away will blowback soon.

  5. I just recently (within the last month) started to use foursquare. As long as you do not check in at home, and monitor your friends I do not see why it is such a big deal. People do enjoy privacy, but when it comes to social media, branding yourself is important. Also using a “check-in” tool in an unfamiliar city, can set you up with great places to check out!

  6. And I take it if you have a son, then he’ll be chained to his computer and Daddy Spinks will be cheering him on from the sidelines with each cyber he gets, saying “That’s my boy!”? 😉

    This, Spinksy, is one of your best posts ever, and that’s saying something with the quality of your output. Top notch, mate, seriously.

    You’re right, you can’t stop people putting something up about you and unless you’re socially savvy, you wouldn’t know how to find out if they had.

    But then that raises another point – if you’re not socially savvy, should you even be on platforms that share info so easily?

    You wouldn’t jump in a car if you can’t drive, or swim with sharks when you have a seeping wound, so why set yourself up to get caught out? Do a little investigation, understand the pitfalls, read both positive/negative feedback on a platform and make a decision from there.

    Unless that’s too much like hard work. And if it is and you bypass it, then don’t complain when pictures of your third nipple make it onto Hot or Not…

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