privacy: another chapter

Update: the first link should actually go to the post in question now–thanks to Mark for noticing the error.

Awhile back I wrote a preface.

I just got back from teaching my final digital photography class of the season at the library. Our summer hours start on Tuesday, and we won’t be open again in the evenings again until after Labor Day. I’m scheduled to do the class up at the main branch in Cody over the summer at least once; we’ll see if they want me back.

I’ve done the class three times, and it’s been a little different each time. The first time, many of the attendees were over 70 and mostly not very comfortable with technology, and we spent a lot of time just learning to take pictures and getting over the fear that film was being wasted (“remember, there is no film!” is the mantra). The next class was pretty down with taking pictures (though it also had some people looking to try out a few cameras before they bought one), so we spent more time playing with Picasa and e-mailing and uploading pictures to various sites. Tonight I just had one student. We spent part of the time getting the student’s camera (a Kodak Easy Share) set up with batteries and a memory card and taking some pictures with it. (We also attempted to put together the fancy base that came with the camera, which apparently lets you charge batteries, transfer pictures to your computer, and look at your pictures on your TV, but it seemed to be missing a piece, so we gave up on that.) Then we took the card out again, stuck it in the multi-card reader I have hooked up to one of the computers, and watched the computer magically import them into Picasa. We played with them there a bit and then took a quick look at Flickr and KodakGallery and loaded a few pictures on to each.

My insanely long handout gives a bunch of different options for online photo-sharing and storage. During class I usually show people Flickr and KodakGallery, as those are the two I’ve used and have accounts with. I say that I use Flickr because I have a lot of friends (plus “imaginary friends,” as Steve Lawson calls them in the first comment on this excellent though unrelated post) who use it, and because, frankly, I mostly take pictures of my cat and stuff around my house and of places I go hiking, and I don’t really don’t much care who sees them. I tell people that if they do care who sees their pictures, a service more like KodakGallery or Shutterfly might be for them. (It is, I know, possible to make photos private or friends or family only in Flickr, but it requires that the people you want to show your pictures to have Flickr accounts, be on your friends and/or family list, etc. etc. That’s often a little more complicated than I want to get into in an introductory class.)

Some students have been very interested in learning about the level of privacy afforded by different sites. Like everyone else, they’ve been bombarded with MySpace hysteria. They’ve heard that social sites on the internet just a haven for pedophiles, and they don’t want their kids serving as fodder. And I can’t blame them.

I don’t have kids, but I’m aware that, quite frequently, you think about a lot of things differently when you do. I suspect that if and when I do have children, I’d follow the same policy with them that I use for other pictures I put on Flickr that have other people in them–unless they’re people I know don’t mind having their picture out on the web, I make them “friends only” pictures. I have lots of people marked “friend” that I don’t know personally but know from their blogs. But for some people, I suspect, knowing someone from online doesn’t seem like enough.

A couple wees ago, This American Life did a show called “How We Talked Back Then” (Elizabeth Meister–you offer so many wonderful things on the site! how about some permalinks?!), which rebroadcast, among other things, some stories about how people were using Internet in 1997. As Ira Glass noted, back then it was kind of odd and scary to think about meeting someone you only knew from online. To many of us now, that’s not a big deal at all. But when I say “us,” I don’t really mean it generically. In this context, “us” means people reading this blog–people who for the most part (I think) already have a fair amount of online life. That’s still not true for everyone. I suspect that for a lot of people, the Internet is kind of the way it was for me back in the mid-1990s–cool but kind of overwhelming.

I realize as I’m writing this that I’m pretty much repeating what I’ve said before: that I don’t have any problem putting my life out there on the web, but I’m reluctant to force that on other people, and that what “we” think of as a normal level of interaction with technology may be pretty extreme for some people–and in that respect, maybe this post has more to do with Luke’s than I originally thought. I’d like to think of myself as Library 2.0 friendly (or, at any rate, generally not L2 hostile), but I’d hate to have to be L2 compliant–it sounds far too much like a test.
For a more lengthy, and thoughtful, consideration of L2 and privacy, go read Rory’s post on the subject, if you haven’t already. I may have more to say on it all in another five months or so.

2 thoughts on “privacy: another chapter”

  1. Hi Laura, I have the same ‘policy’ with posting any photos online – I just won’t, without asking for permission from people first. Maybe it makes my blog a bit boring, but so be it. I suppose it is a bit extreme of me, in that I am a bit leery of even posting pictures of public events up on my blog, or really really innocuous photos (but who’s to say that what’s innocuous to me is innocuous to the subject of the photo..?).

  2. It doesn’t seem extreme to me, but perhaps to some. I think if I had pictures of other people who already post pictures of themselves on Flickr (or let others do so), I’d probably go ahead and post them. I just don’t like to make presumptions about other people’s preferred levels of privacy.

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