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Opinion: With Data, Think Obscurity Over Privacy

DATA PROTECTION

January 18, 2013

In a column for The Atlantic, Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger write that “‘privacy’ is an over-extended concept” that “grabs our attention easily, but is hard to pin down.” Obscurity, they write, “is the idea that when information is hard to obtain or understand, it is, to some degree, safe.” Though data may be deemed safe, it does not mean it is inaccessible, but “less committed folks,” they point out, “experience great effort as a deterrent.” Factors creating online obscurity include being invisible from search engines, using privacy settings and psuedonyms and disclosing information “in coded ways that only a limited audience will grasp.” Hartzog and Selinger opine, “Many contemporary privacy disputes are probably better classified as concern over losing obscurity.” Editor's Note: Read more about this concept in Hartzog's paper "The Case for Online Obscurity" in the IAPP Resource Center.
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