Online services have privacy backwards

In his article “Backwards attitude to online identity erodes our power” , writer Stilgherrian makes this comment:

This morning, I phoned to order a taxi, the driver took me into town, a shopkeeper sold me food and drink, CityRail sold me a train ticket, and later today, I’ll doubtless discuss the affairs of the day with strangers in a bar – and none of this commerce will have involved my identity.

The point being that for most of our Real Life, we go about our business without people knowing who we are or tracking our every move. Sure, we may be recorded by cameras here and there but, unless someone makes a concerted effort to seek us out, we are among the anonymous mass walking by the lens.

We have the choice (if we pay with cash) to be anonymous at the grocery store. We may have shopped there for years but still no one knows our name or knows where we live. They don’t entice us to buy cookies by waving bags at us as we walk by because they know we’ve bought other cookies before. The guy at the dry cleaners won’t have information about us supplied by the grocer.

And, despite being strangers, most of our interactions with other people are polite. Even though we’re strangers and could quite likely behave badly and get away with it, we choose to follow the unwritten rules of civilized society and strive to just get along. Over time we have realized that for all of us to live a genial life, it’s better to treat strangers as we would like to be treated ourselves.

We should strive for the same cordial and anonymous ideal online rather than having to trust big companies with private information just on the off chance that we might say something nasty to a stranger.