Language, power and privacy

Talk at the Indie Tech Summit, Brighton, July 2014
This is the direct transcript of my talk (thank you to the Indie Tech team for doing all the work!) DONT WANT TO READ? SEE THE TALK HERE

Words are very powerful. The limits of my language are the limits of my world, a very clever person once said. Words, they are used to justify specific ways of looking at the world, the nature of things, and as abstract as they might seem sometimes, they actually have real consequences. Real laws are passed based on specific uses of languages. Real business decisions are made and real people’s lives are affected by the specific uses of words and the worlds that they portray.

Now, think of the way we commonly use to describe online privacy. Or at least, the way in which it’s described in policy making. We use words like limitation, protection, walls, cover, obstacles; all words that project this image of this iron-cast safe that is designed to protect our virtual commodities, a virtual cage that is also designed to both protect us and limit us.

There are not too many words about online privacy that describe it as this online human evolution, a condition that keeps moving. Online privacy as a form of social evolution; privacy as an opportunity; privacy as the foundation of democracy; privacy as innovation and privacy as a new business model or online privacy as an actual realistic future scenario.

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. So the limits of these two definitions of privacy, the iron cage or the opportunity will actually constitute the boundaries of the world that we will decide to live in. Think of the two worlds that these two definitions are describing. The future, the systems they inspire and the individual and the societies they portray.

Now, as an awareness raiser and an active member of this more formal internet governance environment, I found that I and we, people like me, we actually have very little power when it comes to influence real policy making, real legislation or in general just to control these very powerful lobbies that you’ve heard a lot about today that influence their decision-making processes. But one thing that I have found is that we have really great power in influencing language, and this includes, as we heard before, the metaphors and indirectly the way in which specific people, they use words and the worlds that they portray.

So, if enough people, if I can make enough people start defining privacy as a form of innovation, as a new business model, as a future definition of what it means to be a human, these definitions they will eventually have an influence on social practices. They’ll inspire business evolutions, influence people’s perceptions and ultimately they’re going to influence the way policies are made and decisions are made.

So in the spirit of today, I actually have my personal declaration of independence. It’s a declaration of independence of these negative descriptions of privacy that are dominant today. I refuse for example to see privacy as an obstacle to online innovation, and I refuse to see anonymity as a criminal act. I refuse to accept that surveillance and online archives is the default, especially when it comes to my specific line of work with children and young people. And I refuse the notion that privacy is no longer a social norm.

What privacy is, as we’ve seen today, it’s innovation, it’s a social norm, it’s creativity, and most importantly, it is the most natural and human evolution of the internet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.