The Emperor’s New Graph Search
Hans Christian Andersen’s classic literary tale The Emperor’s New Clothes draws many parallels to the online privacy frenzy being debated across various sites. Though published in 1837 we can draw a few lessons from the Emperor, and perhaps some insight from the child who portrayed independent thought and went against the tide to point out the truth.
How would the Emperor have tried on his new clothes with today’s technology? Given his vanity, and thirst for public affection he would most likely have had a presence on Instagram. He surely would have racked more love than Zooey Deschanel, Snoop Dogg Lion, and the Kardashian sisters, combined. The Emperor would have perfected the self-mirror shot better than Harry Styles, both of whom, could always be found in their dressing room.
If two weavers today, would claim they design the most beautiful clothes with the most magnificent fabrics imaginable, all one would have to do is look up their store on Yelp. What’s more accurate than crowdsourced reviews? This is of course, one of the attractive features Sir Zuckerberg pitched to the Facebook community marketers & investors. In 2013, Andersen’s story would have ended right here, for the Weavers 1-star ratings would have them kicked out of the Royal court. They also lacked a Foursquare listing, because they never could verify their phone number (it was yet to be invented in the 1830s,) and they were after all swindlers.
Our scenario of course is hypothetical, and the Emperor gullible, so let us nonetheless continue. The Emperor’s advisors demonstrated some level of intelligence. Using Snapchat they shared Gilt.com’s latest 70% off designer clothing and securely shared it with the Emperor who insisted every message be deleted in precisely 10 seconds or less. In case he felt the public would disapprove, the Emperor wanted no digital trace that he contemplated undesirable threads in his digital footprint. For this same reason, the advisors set the Emperor’s Facebook privacy settings accordingly so he could gather the opinion of his latest outfits with only his noblest noblemen, prior to sharing it publicly with his 1 billion fans. On the day of the fitting, the weavers carefully placed the new delicate outfit upon him and he quickly snapped away a few photos through the reflection of the looking glass for his private circle to approve. Not wanting to seem unfit for their position, collectively the advisors all gave it a big thumbs up.
The evening prior to the procession, a Storify bug had publicly exposed the Emperor’s private story. A young lad, who also happens to be a Redditor picked it up and posted it online. Known for their sharp wit and quick judgment, one member of the community commented “But he hasn’t got anything on.” With many upvotes, the story quickly gained steam and went viral, it spread across the Web on Twitter, Tumblr, even Buzzfeed compiled Top10 Royal Faux pas. Three days later when Joan Rivers finally heard about it she ripped apart the non-outfit on Fashion Police.
It is inevitable that as strong as a security encryption may be, it is only as strong as its most secure app. Bugs will expose vulnerabilities, and private data will be leaked. The more public or sensitive the data the higher the likelihood for this occurrence. Are we gullible like the Emperor to think it’s secure or is it simply a calculated risk? If so, why do we take the risk? Drs. Keith Wilcox and Andrew Stephen from Columbia Business School and Pittsburgh University respectively, found that when people interact with close friends on social media, they get a boost in self-esteem. Unfortunately, they also demonstrate less self control. Much like the child in the original tale, do we know the only way not to expose ourselves is to simply not post something controversial, or is it simply a difference in generational behavior? To answer this we can look toward today’s Gen-Y. Recently at CES a 22-year-old fashion designer named Darius summed up his generation’s attitude by saying: “We live in public.” He is aware everything he shares on Twitter and other social platforms is “out there” and remains extremely conscious about what he posts.
Over the holidays even Randi Zuckerberg fell victim to a security loophole when a friend of a friend unknowingly nabbed a photo and shared it on Twitter. Facebook Graph Search is bound to amplify these types of instances. Numerous articles have been published such as Venturebeat’s steps to take before Graph Search embarrasses you.
Harmony is possible to achieve with certain regulations while maintaining privacy and security. A shift in paradigm must occur for the people to see the value and for the gatekeeper of the data to be properly accountable and adhere to a high standard of security. Otherwise we would have learned nothing from this centuries-old tale.
This is my story which I have related. If it be sweet or if it be not sweet, take some elsewhere and let some come back to me*.
The original tale by Hans Christian Andersen: The Emperor’s New Clothes
* Traditional Ashanti end to a story