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In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
(George Orwell)

OCTOBER 5, 2011

The Death of Privacy

The crafting by Gigapixel Panorama Photography of an image showing the crowd assembled in the streets of Vancouver on the evening of the Stanley Cup finals, on June 15, 2011 is leaving the reader perplexed. This image, which is constituted of the amalgamation of 216 pictures taken over 15 minutes, is detailed enough to allow the user to zoom in without sacrificing details, to the point where it is possible to identify each face among the crowd. This image appears to mark the end, at least symbolically, of privacy in the public space.

By the same token, Eli Pariser gave a conference for TED in February 2011) about the search results screening undertaken by Google algorithms, for one, and about the "filter bubble" thus created which cuts the user off from the rest of the world. Pariser calls on search engine algorithm programmers (but also on programmers from Yahoo! News, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, etc.) to adopt a code of conduct that will expose the users not only to content that "resembles them", but also to content that may encourage a sense of public engagement. Pariser argues that while the Internet was supposed to free the citizen from the media filters that traditionally guarded access to information, the current practices are re-creating these barriers. This presentation questions the position of the learner vis-a-vis information: as citizens, as managers, as analysts, should we favour information based on its proximity to our interests and its immediate relevance, or should we favour information featuring new ideas, new people and new perspectives, so as to foster learning?

Based on the Gigapixel Panorama Photography-crafted picture and Eli Pariser's presentation, should we conclude that privacy and freedom of thought have disappeared, whether from the public sphere or cyberspace?

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