TAOI: Privacy and Metadata

My latest post for The Architecture of Information delves into some implications of crowdsourced efforts to serve justice to the perpetrators of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. To wit,

efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable remind us that we live double lives: one in physical space, where our bodies act, and another online, where those actions are recorded – either by us or others.

There are ample photographs and videos of people who were in or around the Capitol on January 6. Some of these were posted to social networks by the assailants, who unwittingly implicated themselves. The FBI is following up with leads from these data points and several people are already under custody.

More intriguingly (at least for information architects), people have also used unrelated information systems such as dating sites after the attack to “out” suspects. It’s likely the designers of these systems didn’t account for the possibility of their being used for such purposes.

I’ve stated my unequivocal support for serving justice to the people who attacked the Capitol and those who incited them. However, as a citizen and designer, I worry about the implications of our digital beings in our information society. The same technologies that can bring miscreants to justice can also tamper legal dissent.

As the pace layer model suggests, governance frameworks move slower than commerce and infrastructure. Much of our legal infrastructure was created for a world in which our actions and whereabouts weren’t being constantly tracked. Before legal protections can catch up, it’s up to the people who design, implement, and manage these systems to behave ethically and responsibly. It’s a big ask.

Privacy and Metadata – The Architecture of Information