I had the great opportunity to speak at TEDx Berlin about trust and privacy, and though the video is probably the best recap of my thoughts, I wanted to provide a text version with the same ideas as a quicker read. You can also check out the slides as well, though they're mostly pictures.
Though some think of privacy as a fundamental human right that's always been around, it hasn't really always been that way. The first human beings living in very small societies and villages probably had very little privacy. Living in a cave or a small circle of huts meant that everyone likely knew what everyone else was doing and who brought what home for dinner. Only through technology advancements that allowed humans to live in larger and larger groups did we gain more and more privacy through separate and remote homes, larger marketplaces to buy and sell goods, and the ability to just move to a new place and start over.
But now that same technology is taking away our privacy. Whether it's being tracked on the Internet, email tools that let us "spy" and research very easily, or just the much wider availability of information, it's hard to deny that many people are losing bits and pieces of privacy. In my experience, one can find out almost anything about anyone - it just depends how long and how much money you're willing to spend trying.
Many people see this as a negative, with the EU a noted example of fighting for privacy rights. We agree - there should always be places on the Internet where anonymity rules, whether for political, social, or personal reasons. But it's highly unlikely that those places will rule the web, and even some supposedly anonymous forums like Reddit and 4chan actually aren't so anonymous.
Is Information Bad?
Instead of seeing this privacy loss as a negative, we at Credport are presenting the possibility that maybe information flow isn't so bad. Instead of thinking information about human beings, let's switch the focus to something else.
Generally, people see transparency and information about corporations and governments as positive. The more we know about the workings and decisions of our government, the better our chances to catch corruption. In most advanced democracies, there are oversight committees upon oversight committees, public reports and records, and ways to check out just about everything.
The same logic follow for corporations. We want to know how they affect the environment we live in, whether their products are safe, and if they're charging consumers a fair price. This can only be accomplished through transparency.
So if we want to know more about governments and corporations, what about transparency for people?
The Future of Trust
The reason that transparency is so important is that it builds trust. The more you know about someone, the more you can trust them. The cool thing is that trust enables new kinds of interactions online. Sites like eBay and Airbnb simply couldn't exist without some sort of transparent rating/reputation system to build trust between people. Because both buyer and seller have a very good idea they'll be satisfied, they feel safe sending their stuff all the way across the country in return for money, or staying in an apartment with someone they've never met before.
These marketplaces are just the beginning, and that's why we're building Credport. We want to enable every kind of interaction between people through trust, to build a peer to peer world instead of hierarchical one. This added efficiency of cutting out the middleman and these new connections to people we've never met before are extremely powerful. By combing a verified identity, a reputation trail, and social networks, Credport allows people to feel safe interacting with a stranger in the real world - and that's what the next phase of the Internet will really be about.
So maybe this new technology really will take away some of our privacy, but we don't have to view it as a bad thing. We can use information to build trust. We might even end up collaborating in ways like our ancient ancestors who lived in caves and huts did.
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