The perils of asymmetric openness

I had an interesting conversation with Francine Hardaway yesterday about radical transparency in the context of Google Glass. What are we willing to share, when, why, and with whom? I agreed with her that being more open about as much as we can as individuals and organisations is a good thing for all concerned. Whether it is the benefits of “writing ourselves into existence” or making ourselves and our organisations more accountable it is attractive as an ideal.


All of this is only OK if everyone is as open as everyone else! Yesterday’s fuss about the NSA collecting data opened many people’s eyes to the darker aspects of our new found technological ability to share. (Worth reading Mike Arrington’s take on this). The fact that they can be collecting data about me and extrapolating meaning from it without my awareness or ability to react is the problem. Asymmetric openness just doesn’t work.

We have to do whatever we can to ensure that our systems default to open rather than closed at every opportunity. From the looks of it neither business nor governments can be trusted to do this. This is why things like Doc Searls’s personal cloud, Dave Winer’s focus on open standards, the work of the EFF and so many other attempts to keep things as open and free from commercial or ideological influence matter.