Thursday, September 11, 2003

>> Technology vs Evolution

Just had a thought related to an old story about a spammer's details being leaked onto the web (Spammer shuts down after his details appear on web, also Sydney Morning Herald), and while it can be seen as just, or mob-rule, by some or others, what just struck me is the sheer amount of privacy attached to what we consider public, i.e. our e-mail address.

A few years ago, if you had an e-mail address when nobody else did, you were kind of proud of it and gave it out to anyone you met :) A few spams may have cropped up (more if you were on AOL, I suspect), but it was cool. And you could always change it if you didn't like it/the spam.

Nowadays, as our e-mail address has become one of our primary means of communication, like our address and our telephone number, the effort required to change it has overshadowed this original "frivolity" to the point where we are almost as protective of it as we are with our other details.

Personally, I find this shift interesting, as e-mail is unique amongst communication channels. Addresses encode a tangible, physical space that presents plenty of barriers to access - posting is expensive, for instance. Telephone can also be quite expensive, but is more effective than postal channels. E-Mail takes this further - anyone anywhere can contact you at no (or minimal) cost, so the potential of it being public is immense in comparison.

The New Zealand spammer case was a prime example of a "real world Denial Of Service" attack, i.e. it involved a huge amount of people using his personal details to achieve some effect (the prevention of spam, where spam is the "service"). In organisations, this is currently less of an issue, it would seem - mail campaigns tend to promote the use of a letter as a better way of getting noticed, whereas e-mails can simply be deleted. But nonetheless, we are now in a position of Accountability through Contactability, and other words ending in "ility". The consquences of this are quite big, I think, and I'll have to look into it more.

No comments: