Do Some Sites Need a Publicity Policy?

Josh Peterson, CEO of the Robot Coop has posted an entry called “Identity: toward an Internet publicity policy�? that has me thinking.

What he is saying, in my view, is that most sites have a privacy policy and that’s all well and good. These policies give members an understanding of how their information is used and protected - what "private" means. But what about a policy that relates what it means to use a site in which everything you do on the site is public by default?

Josh points out that there are a group of new sites, like his 43 things and Flickr, that provide a platform from which members can be *more* public. The public part is the intent- publicity provides a foundation for networking and relationships. The more public you are- the greater your opportunities to network- and the sites encourage it.

It's all about publicity:

This pattern can be seen all over Web 2.0. Is there a privacy concern at Meetup, Audioscrobbler or 43 Things – where people can actually meet you in the flesh, learn what you are listening to and even discover your personal goals? I don’t think any of these sites are about privacy – they are about publicity. They are about how when you disclose bits about your personality and interests, you can start to connect with others (in person or virtually) who share common experiences and interests. Part of what is happening on the web today, through folksonomies, blogs, social networks, link sharing and photo sharing are new ways for people to disclose their personalities in public and new ways to develop a digital identity that might augment who we are as people, offline.

Of course, the public sites aren’t for everyone. People concerned about their privacy should steer clear. However, for the people who are unsure of what it means to share information in a truly public forum- should there be a publicity policy that relates the risks and advantages of their participation?

As I commented on his entry, I think there may be an opportunity to define these types of public sites and enable them to share a "publicity policy" that can be used to educate potential members about their participation. Maybe a “public commons policy�? or something similar.

Any steps we can take towards helping people understand the implications of their public participation on the web is a step in the right direction.