Privacy vs the need for connection – to live & learn.

The Psychological Meaning of Internet Privacy

Some news clips and then some musings from me.

Groups Criticize Amazon Policy
By D. IAN HOPPER, Associated Press Writer

“Consumer groups say a change in’s privacy policy could leave customers of the Internet retailing giant no recourse if they don’t want personal information such as credit card numbers and home addresses passed on to some other company.

Seattle-based Inc., which sells a wide range of products, including books, toys and hardware, posted a revised privacy policy on its Web site Thursday telling customers the information they give is considered a company asset that can be sold. A company spokeswoman, Patty Smith, said the new policy is actually more restrictive in some cases, and better explains what Amazon can and cannot do with customer data.

“As we continue to develop our business, we might sell or buy stores or assets,” the new policy reads. “In such transactions, customer information generally is one of the transferred business assets.”

No. 3.6 . The Filter. 9.08.00 from Harvard at has a section on this… they say:

“Now, in the wake of a decision by the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court overseeing the ToysMart case not to consider its agreement with the FTC in the absence of a buyer for ToysMart’s assets, leading e-tailer has introduced modifications to its privacy policy making it clear that Amazon customers’ personal data is considered a company asset and can therefore legitimately be shared with Amazon’s growing cadre of corporate partners´┐Żor, if need be,sold.”

The question of privacy is and will be debated from a legal, political and social perspective. From a psychological perspective what is happening as Amazon changes policy? A lot.

First Some thoughts about Amazon . This is a super Alexandria – and an Amazon customer is a scholar in the greatest library ever, so what happens as we access this database of books in print? It is not only a library it is a huge many-to-many discussion about books. Yet the networks of people here is not social – “I learn that people who bought this also bought this” – that is a psychometric or psychological revelation. I can look at reviewers and their profiles, meet them, see what is on their wish list and in their “purchase circle” and move to the website of fan clubs and authors. This is not like meeting people in a physical bookstore – here we read their minds – we enter into a mind-space. We find books without the help of librarians, but with each other in systems of automated and non-automated collaboration that runs deep. Because this library will work best if there is only *one* people flock to the biggest, where they find the most. Perhaps it is sad that this is a store, and a commercial, corporate, capitalist place – that is not unlike many universities – there is no class neutrality when it comes to learning. With immunity to the Orwellian nightmare inherent in the inherent impact of the words: knowledge about the customers is called an asset.

That knowledge of the scholars in this modern Alexandria is the very thing that is used to tune the scholars into the information using automated collaborative filtering or psychometry as Moreno would have called it. It would seem a marvelous virtue if it was *one librarian* who had the knowledge about the scholars. This virtue becomes scary in the panopticon.

As individuals we are not able to learn, learning is in relationship with others, always. These relationships are so vital that we will seek them out wherever they work best – even if we have to be humiliated by being seen as a “user, a customer, and an asset”. Can the impulse to seek the purest collaborative knowing be stronger than any companies ability to exploit that need for its own greed? Can our collective spirit and soul transcend the ugliness of some of the culture invading the Net?

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