Too Much Information

Managing Privacy and Security

One day, Susan received a phone call from her best-friend Nick. He was calling her from work and sounded really annoyed. He started right ahead telling her that his boss had a weird talk with him. He was surprised because he didn’t have a clue of what was going on. His boss explained him in a very sleazy way that one of his colleagues had found a blog online that Susan and him had together, where they would put fun stuff that they wanted to share with their friends. The boss ordered him take off a picture where he was dressed like a woman and wearing high-heels. He could either delete it or leave his job. Susan couldn’t believe her ears.

Managing Inflow and Outflow

The management of our information and consequently its privacy and security, gets more complex as our digital presence grows. We often place a big amount of trust and personal information on web-based services and companies like Google or Facebook further encourage us to do so. However, these have only existed for a couple of decades and we can’t foresee how long they will last. Our information must stay secure, both while alive and after we pass away. For purposes of privacy and security management we divide our personal information into inflow and outflow. The inflow consists of information directed toward us and information potentially relevant or useful to us. The outflow contains information controlled and (or) owned by us, information about us that others may have or may want, information sent, posted or provided by us and information that we have already experienced.

We manage our information outflow for privacy and power. In the first place, we should prevent that unnecessary information gets out. The information can be recorded, stored, transmitted and then retrieved by nearly anyone, anywhere, at any time. Very often we have to make instant decisions regarding information we are willing to provide and many times we don’t understand clearly the implications of clicking yes or no to questions that computer programs or other services ask us. Applying further control over our information outflow can be difficult since it is no longer within our direct reach.

Managing the inflow can afford us more free time and allows us to complete our tasks faster. We often receive information from the same senders. Some of these, such as our friends or co-workers, banks or schools, should be included in our personal inventories, since the bereaved may need to inform them about our death. Most of the times, nothing warns us that the information is coming and only the legal imposition can stop people and institutions from targeting us with it. We should focus our efforts on managing the channel of the incoming information, rather than the individual items themselves, for example we can turn off email, mute the phone or close the door.