Facebook seems to have survived the storm of protest from members when it exposed their security by enforcing changes that overrode some user privacy choices.  The problem hasn’t gone away however.

New Scientist, 5 June 2010, notes that Facebook chief, Mark Zuckerberg, ignores the human factor at his peril.  The 50 privacy settings with 170 options simply did not consider the human computer interface (HCI).

“It’s a problem for everyone involved in online self-publishing,” Anthony House of Google told an Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org/meeting in London, according to New Scientist.  House is European policy manager for Google and admitted, “We need to be more intuitive about human-computer interaction.”  He was referring to the automatic enrolment of Gmail users to the Buzz social network when they failed to opt out as the Buzz introduction appeared on their screen.

When Ann Blandford, an HCI researcher at the University College London investigated, she told New Scientist that she found the meaning of many privacy settings is obscure.  She proposed that we each be able to preview our social sites as if we were a stranger, a nominated friend or a friend-of-a-friend.  “I want to be able to log in as someone else and look at my online profile…” she said (p. 19) – an experience akin to an out-of-body experience!

If that seems slightly weird, how about something really creepy in the same issue of New Scientist?  You can use Lifenaut’s website http://lifenaut.com/  to create a basic visual interface of yourself (your auto-face may speak, wink or blink) which can communicate with your descendents long after you have gone.  You could choose to deploy Image Metrics’ software (at $US500,000 a crack) and create a much more lifelike digital version, which would be less frightening to your grandchildren. http://www.image-metrics.com/project/emily-project 

If you want to see these possibilities in a Scifi story, then watch out for the American TV drama Caprica, which replaces Zoe Graystone with an exact digital copy of her brain implanted into a humanoid robot http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okC5HjMANF4 .

The question is: how private would that digital shadow of yourself be if it is stored in the "Cloud" or would hackers sabotage your loving messages with hurtful fiction?

Submitted by Joseph Peart