“I’m here as a crier, raising my voice in defense of lost privacy,” entrepreneur and author Andrew Keen said, directly attacking Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s expressed views on identity and privacy.
Keen ultimately called for web denizens to push back against the powers that be and collectively rehabilitate solitude. “We as the little brothers, we are the collective big brother of the 21st century,” Keen said.
Keen believes that we, the social sharers of the world, have fallen victim to the seductive notion — he calls it “the cult of the social” — pushed forward by Facebook (and other social services) that we inherently want to be social. He spoke of this cultish way of thinking as a fallacy that leaves us victims to the whims of hungry advertisers. We’ve become the product, he said. “We’re selling ourselves.”
Keen’s thesis of a collective resistance is a bit idealistic in nature, but it certainly provides one answer to the growing uneasiness around the idea of privacy, or lack thereof, on the web.
His comments followed European Commissioner Viviane Reding’s keynote address on European legislation in development that is being designed to allow the free movement of personal data and the protection of that data. Reding spoke about a person’s fundamental right to be forgotten, or the right for an individual to withdraw their consent to personal data shared on the web.
“Even tiny scraps of personal information can have a huge impact,” she said, speaking of the individual’s right to know what data is being collected, for what purpose and for how long. “The individual is in best position to protect their own data.”
“I’ve got bad news for the Commissioner,” Keen said, unabashedly pointing to Facebook, and the social network’s mission to get the people of the world to reveal their real selves on the web, as that bad news.
“We need to learn how to live alone,” Keen argued.
But Keen’s decree may be more idealistic than plausible, especially considering that Facebook has become the center of what many experts have long called the next evolution of the web, where identity and social serve as the foundation for a personalized browsing experience.
Big brother, be damned.
Disclosure: The Digital Life Design conference paid my way to Munich. VentureBeat’s coverage of DLD 12 remains objective and independent.