Technologists have helped us recognize many important laws of the universe, some empirical and some metaphorical. For instance, Moore’s Law teaches us that computers double their power about every eighteen months. Metcalf’s Law attests to the power of networks: the value of communication technologies and networks such as the Internet and social networking sites increases as the number of users do. Reed’s Law tells us that the utility of large networks, particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network. And Linus’s Law explains that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Or: “Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix will be obvious to someone.”
Here may be another law: Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, predicts that “next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and that next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before.” As Zuckerberg explains, people are ever more willing to tell others what they are doing, who their friends are and even what they look like as they crawl home from a college party. So this means, if true, that in the aggregate we will be posting more photos to Flickr, uploading more videos to YouTube and music to Tumblr, sharing travel plans on dopplr, uploading our transactions to wesabe, posting our stock trades to covestor, and many other forms of social sharing. And it also suggests a few other things. First, we will no doubt see more tools emerge that integrate and analyze this data across sites (and hence making it more commercially valuable). Second, we need to keep talking about privacy: how we understand, value, and protect it. As Dan Solove’s long-standing project and superb book Understanding Privacy teach us, it is this task that is most urgent to take seriously.