Our lives in data: privacy

There's a very nice exhibition at the Science Museum in London. Called 'Our lives in data', it looks at how the data that we provide in various ways is used in planning decisions, how our likes and dislikes can be used to customise the advertisements we see, and also how we as individuals regard our privacy. It's that last one I'd like to consider in this post.

 I guard my privacy -- or so I thought. Photo data-lock.jpg by Terry Freedman

I guard my privacy -- or so I thought. Photo data-lock.jpg by Terry Freedman

Now, I am pretty fussy about privacy. For instance, I tend not to share my feelings on Facebook, or where I'm going on Twitter, or (except rarely) who my business clients are in my blog posts. So I was quite surprise when I discovered, in response to a multiple choice quiz, that rather than being a 'privacy protector' I'm a 'savvy sharer' -- the definitions are given in the photo below.

 Privacy categories, photo by by Terry Freedman

Privacy categories, photo by by Terry Freedman

Obviously, you have to take this with a couple of sacks of salt. It's not the most scientific test I've come across, more on a par with those magazine quizzes you can take to find out whether or not you're a psychopath. Still, the questions make you think.

For example, one of the questions is about whether or not an organisation ought to use your tweets to find out where you are. My gut reaction is to say "No", but I imagine ot could be useful in some circumstances.

Another question is whether the health authorities should use data to send you messages about what your diet and other lifestyle choices should be. I said "No", because there wasn't an option to say "I'm an adult, and I can decide for myself, thank you". But again, I can imagine that such a service could be quite useful for some people and in some circumstances -- as long as you could switch it off.

Interestingly, the questions are randomised: another person had a slightly different set of questions, and the ones that were the same as mine were presented in a different order.

If you get the chance to visit the exhibition, then do so. I don't think it's large enough in itself to justify taking a load of kids along. However, there is plenty of other fascinating stuff going on in the museum.

In the next issue of my newsletter, Digital Education, I'll be exploring the notion of privacy in a little more detail. Here's the sign-up form if you're interested: