"The BRIC Countries' Openness and Privacy Expressed Through Social Networking

Yahoo!/Institute for the Study of Diplomacy Junior Fellow Research: Ben Turner, May, 2009

I. Introduction In the near future, most of the world's internet users are going to come from five countries: the US, Brazil, Russia, India, and China (or USABRIC). Each country has a profoundly unique culture and government-institutional memory that will shape how its citizens interact online through social networking sites (SNSs). But hard culture has been caught up in a swirling vortex of attitudes and customs online, where sharing more data about oneself and getting more connections and friends provides social capital benefits that can exceed the benefits from a country's cultural norms and its appetite for being more open about itself or more closed about itself. Thus, a desire for standardization in the form of a global social networking system is strong -- as shown by Facebook's rapid growth worldwide. As this standardization becomes more normal, though, hard cultures will emerge again and shape the way that SNSs look and feel and perform so that peoples' online data truly reflects their identities. But it will be through a model -- one which I propose -- of transparency in which users have greater control over their own data yet they still share it willingly, according to their cultural comfort levels.

II. Definitions II.A. Privacy The word "privacy" is an incredibly ambiguous term in English, and its meaning is even more confusing when a synonym is selected in a different language. But usually the meaning of "privacy" in an English sense takes on two broad dimensions. Amitai Etzioni, in his book "The Limits of Privacy", speaks at length on the Fourth Amendment

and its implications for providing scrutiny, but not a rigid, quickly-outdated legal regulation for privacy:
"At issue here is much more than an accurate definition of privacy; at the very heart of this discussion is the appropriateness of social formulations of the good, the point of contention that separates communitarians from both individualists and social conservatives. For individualists, who strongly oppose social formulations of the good and believe that each person should be free to form and pursue his or her own good, and who thus seek to maximize both private choice and privacy, the distinction matters little. For social conservatives, especially religious fundamentalists who would rely on the state to enforce their values -- for instance, to suppress pornography -- and who are willing to curtail both private choices and privacy, the difference between these two concept is also of limited import. In contrast, the distinction is crucial for communitarians (at least for responsive ones), who hold that important social formulations of the good can be left to private choices -- provided there is sufficient communal scrutiny! That is, the best way to curtail the need for governmental control and intrusion is to have somewhat less privacy. elaboration." "The key to understanding this notion lies in the importance, especially to communitarians, of the 'third realm'. This realm is not the state or the market (or individual choices), but rather the community, which relies on subtle social fostering of prosocial conduct by such means as communal recognition, approbation, and censure. These processes require the scrutiny of some behavior, not by police or secret agents, but by friends, neighbors, and fellow members of voluntary associations."1 This point requires some

The first dimension of privacy is one of openness versus closedness.


people speak of being a "private person", exhibiting "privateness", they mean that they do not share a lot about themselves to outsiders or even those close to them. They keep their hand close to their chest. They are not very "open", which implies that someone would freely share a lot of details about himself. Thus on a continuum, some people are


Etzioni, Amitai. "The Limits of Privacy", Basic Books, 2000, pp. 212-213

more "public" or "private" than others, and this approximates with being "open" and "closed". The second dimension of privacy comes in terms of control. When one wants his own "privacy", what he is asking for is the control and right to decide how and when others can interact with him. When users on online social networking sites (SNSs) speak of "privacy settings", what they are intuitively looking for are the controls which allow them to decide who can see their personal information. word for "security". "privateness" means a state of being closed to others. Perhaps a good way to suss out the distinction in the meaning is through Latin and Russian translations, provided in a blog post by Margarita Rayzberg:
"According to the online translators (and my father) privacy is translated as 'конфиденциальность', or confidentiality. The etymology of the two words are revealing: "Privacy comes from the Latin privatus 'set apart, belonging to oneself' (not to the state), used in contrast to publicus, communis. "Confidentiality comes from the Latin con (with) fidel (trust). "The two words imply opposite directions: privacy implies a distancing, a separation, while confidentiality implies proximity, closeness. One describes a relationship between the individual and the state, the other between individuals. One is about keeping out; the other is about bringing in. Or as one of my Russian friend interprets: 'Privacy excludes everyone but myself, whereas confidentiality excludes everyone but me and the people I trust. This is more in line with Russian and American relationships with personal information.'"2

"Privacy" is a proxy

"Privacy" tends to represent a metaphorical wall, whereas

Thus I will try to be precise when using certain terms, using "openness", "closedness", and "privacy" to mean different things. II.B. Online Openness vs. Closedness

Rayzberg, Margarita. "Culture and Social Media: The Issue of Privacy", Gnovis blog, 11 Nov 08. http://gnovisjournal.org/blog/culture-and-social-media-issue-privacy

There is a great amount of tension on the internet in application development, privacy advocacy versus freedom of speech advocacy groups, and in general online sentiment, about how to balance out the desire for people to share (openness) with the necessity of protecting (security) peoples' data from malicious users, the government, and companies. While there are many who seek to be "closed" by not sharing, the main debate is how to protect those who share from unwanted negative effects of a breach of their "privacy". To be more open is to share one's data freely -- to be more closed is to actively or passively limit the amount of personal data that gets online. Organizations such as Wikipedia, Netflix, and Digg have shown that sometimes the collective, collaborative sharing of information can produce more of a social benefit than not sharing at all. More and more personal data is being moved into the "cloud" online, being hosted on companies' servers which can be accessed from any location. Pooling of knowledge and communication create a superior, more comprehensive product than any party could have created on its own. This new dynamic is at odds with privacy advocates' fear of sharing -- in the prisoner's dilemma game theory construct, it is safer for all parties to not share anything, to receive maximum benefit. If one party shares, however, this may negatively affect the party that doesn't share, as it would not be able to defend itself in terms of reputation. Online, it is impossible to keep every individual from sharing. A mutuallyassured security solution is not possible.

III. Privacy Online Today III.A. Privacy Tools Data of all kinds is being massively dumped onto the internet into corporate databases, by way of the cloud, SNSs, and consumer service sites. Privacy advocates find this deeply distressing. The primary method of protecting users is a simple username/password check. The problem with this method is primarily that it is used by humans; therefore passwords are usually very simple to guess or crack, and humans tend to write down their passwords or share the same passwords or accounts across web

sites. Efforts such as the OpenID project are seeking to reduce the points of entry through the username/password system, allowing for trusted web sites granting user access to other trusted web sites. But the potential for social engineering will always be high. Other forms of verification are largely impractical in a distributed IT environment. Fobs with security keys, fingerprint scanners, ID card scanners, retinal scanners, et al add another layer of security, but are unrealistic for casual usage of using several different devices daily to access the internet. More than that, users are willingly giving their information to dozens of web sites. Facebook is the usual scapegoat for privacy violations. It collects personal information, market research on user preferences, photos, and personal transmissions. That said, Facebook has the most advanced and granular privacy controls of any web site online. Users, if they are proactive enough, can customize who can see just about any piece of information on Facebook. But, as research has concluded, few people actually use these controls; they accept the default privacy settings as their standard. "Digital Footprints", a Pew Internet and American Life Project study found after surveying American internet users that, "Similarly, the majority of online adults (61%) do not feel compelled to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online. Just 38% say they have taken steps to limit the amount of online information that is available about them."3 These results contradict public attitudes about fiercely protecting personal privacy, but aid Facebook's corporate strategy, which is to get people to share as much as possible. Facebook aids this process of openness and sharing by defaulting to forcing users to opt out of sharing, rather than opting in.

III.B. Levels of Privacy Control on the Web

Fox, Susannah and Madden, Mary and Smith, Aaron and Vitak, Jessica. "Digital Footprints", Pew Internet & American Life Project, 16 Dec 07, p. i. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Digital-Footprints.aspx

In November, 2008, I did a survey of the most popular SNSs in the US and the BRIC countries to see how much control the sites gave to their users in order to manage their own privacy settings. In the US, I looked at Facebook, Myspace, and Orkut. For Brazil, I looked at Orkut; Russia: Vkontakte; India: Orkut; and China: Xiaonei.4 What I found was that Myspace had the weakest, simplest privacy controls for its users. Orkut fell somewhere in the middle. Vkontakte and Xiaonei, both Facebook clones, offered fairly good privacy controls, modeling themselves off Facebook's excellent controls. But no one came close to the level of granularity that Facebook offers. Generally one can set privacy controls down to individual users, groups, and networks. everything. Interestingly, though, one cannot open up completely to the public on Facebook -- that is, one must have some connection to you on Facebook to be able to see

III.C. Unintended Uses of SNS Privacy Controls At this point, SNS usage gets interesting. SNS users self-select themselves for which SNS they choose to pitch a tent at; as danah boyd posits, younger teens and bands have tended to go to Myspace, whereas wealthier, older college-and-above people have moved to Facebook in the US.5 If privacy control were valued above all, then everyone would use Facebook, but around the world, we observe that people often do not choose Facebook.


Turner, Ben. "Social Networking Sites' Privacy Settings", International Values and Communications Technologies blog, 07 Nov 08. https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/isdyahoofellow/social-networking-sitesprivacy-settings/

boyd, danah. "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace", Apophenia Blog Essay, 24 Jun 07. http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html

Figure 1: Facebook profile privacy settings

Users on Myspace have been found to create fake profiles in order to skirt the lack of privacy and anonymity on Myspace. For teens who seek to create an operating social space outside of their parental and school structures, and away from strangers (that they've been taught successfully to avoid), fake profiles known only to their circles of friends are a wonderful solution. Pseudonymity thus becomes a comfortable state for

younger teens to take up, as opposed to a Facebook mindset that values a verified identity. Orkut also is rampant with pseudonyms, perhaps primarily because users are able to see which other specific users (by name) have looked at their profiles recently, removing the anonymity of spying on others on the network. Says the Pew Internet & American Life Project study, "Digital Footprints", focusing on American users,
"Among adult internet users who maintain an online profile, 82% say that their profile is currently visible compared with 77% of online teens who report this. ... Among adults who say they have a visible profile, 60% say that profile can be seen by anyone who happens upon it, while 38% say their profile is only accessible to friends. ... Teens with visible profiles make more conservative choices with respect to visibility; just 40% said their profile was visible to anyone, while 59% reported access that was restricted to friends only."6

In China, online users, who love to share content and are extremely active online, know exactly where the line is drawn on what the government will allow them to say publically. To compensate for a lack of privacy in China, therefore, much of the Chinese blogosphere avoids politics altogether and instead focuses on mobile gaming and socializing. These unintended work-arounds for privacy indicate that users will compensate and find solutions for their privacy and openness/closedness preferences if the service does not provide it for them. This might suggest that different cultures, which have different value systems, might use SNSs differently than each other. If so, what is it that the BRIC countries and the US value most?

IV. An International Look

Pew Internet & American Life Project, p. iv.

IV.A. Social Media and Cultural Characteristics of the US and BRIC Countries We assume that cultural identities shape local technological use and development, as well as the pace and spread of innovation. Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired Magazine, says,
"Anthropologist Pierre Petrequin once noted that the Meervlakte Dubele and Iau tribes in Papau New Guinea had been using steel axes and beads for many decades but their use had not been adopted by the Wanos tribe a “mere day’s walk away. "This is true today still. Cell phone use is significantly broader, deeper, faster in Japan, say, then in the US. Yet the same factories make the gear for both countries. Similarly automobile use is broader, deeper, faster in the US than say, in Japan. This bifurcation is again not obvious in the similar state of technological infrastructure between both countries. Another example: the adoption of credit cards is wildly uneven among the developed world. But that unevenness is not for a lack of plastic, or electricity, or banks."7

In our original research, the Yahoo!/Institute for the Study of Diplomacy senior fellow, Gaurav Mishra, attempted to use Geert Hofstede's model for comparing cultural norms across countries.8 Hofstede's model is compelling because it breaks down cultures into different dimensions, including uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation. We had trouble interpreting results for the BRIC countries, however, and, when we presented our findings to a small group of communications, culture, and technology students at Georgetown, they pointed out that the study collected only on IBM employees. Henceforth, we decided to discard our studies using Hofstede's results.


Kelly, Kevin. "Ethnic Technology", The Technium blog, 10 Mar 09. http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2009/03/ethnic_technolo.php

Mishra, Gaurav. "Using Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions to Study Social Media Usage in BRIC Countries", International Values and Communications Technologies blog, 01 Sep 08. https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/isdyahoofellow/using-geert-hofstede-culturaldimensions-to-study-social-media-usage-in-bric-countries/

Another approach we took was to look at Edward Hall's definitions of low- and high- context cultures, to see if that could help us separate concerns about privacy in terms of security or in terms of in closedness. Hall defined high-context cultures as those that rarely use explicit communication and instead rely on inference, situation, and close-knit understanding of others. Relationships exist through long-term kinship ties. Asian cultures are among the most high-context cultures, but Russia, Brazil, and India are also considered high-context cultures. Low-context cultures rely on standards and informality and explicitness. Conversations can occur out of context, time, and relationship as they are mainly factual and informational in nature, and task-centered.9 The United States and Scandinavia are very low-context -- they will tell you what you think in no uncertain terms. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book "Outliers", describes the difference as that between American pilots and Korean pilots, using an example from a plane crash in 1997. Analyzing the plane's black box, investigators found that the captain's co-pilot, a subordinate, would only suggest to his captain that they might be in danger, instead of using a direct, urgent manner of speaking. Cultural background trumped airplane safety and initiative. One of the last things the first officer says before the plane crashes is, "Captain, the weather radar has helped us a lot."10 This is supposed to convey doubt and worry while at the same time not offending the captain -- in a mission-critical situation! Clearly, cultural identity affects even the most technical decisions. But cultural identity also arguably affects how web sites are designed and structured. Elizabeth Würtz of the IT-University Copenhagen published a paper entitled "A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Websites from High-Context Cultures and Low-Context Cultures", which looked at research into how the same corporate web sites differed in separate countries.


Culture at Work: Communicating Across Cultures web site. "High and Low Context". http://www.culture-at-work.com/highlow.html

Gladwell, Malcolm. "Outliers: The Story of Success", Little, Brown and Company, 18 Nov 08, p. 221.

"The results also showed an unexpected finding in terms of imagery, however. The co-presence of products and people on HC websites showed a different strategy from that of LC websites, which were more likely to separate the product from the consumer. In this way, attention is either fully drawn to the product or the consumer on LC websites, whereas on HC websites the product is more often pictured together with an individual, thus giving the consumer a central place of attention and never focusing entirely on the product only."11

According to a 2008 Universal McCann study of 18-54 year old internet users, the US came in below the world average in the amount of sociability it engaged in online. 12 Of the BRIC countries, Brazil and China were far more active online than other countries, with India close behind. Even Russia was fairly active online compared to the US. Around 80% of Brazilians, Chinese, and Indians read blogs, and over 80% in the same countries watch videos. Brazil in particular has 69% of its users maintaining an online profile, compared with the next country, India, at only 59%. This figure is only 35% in the US. These figures should be treated with caution, as each country is different: in particular, there are significant differences in percentage of total citizens online and digital divides between the rich and poor in some countries.


Wurtz, Elizabeth. "A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Websites from High-Context Cultures and Low-Context Cultures", Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(1), article 13. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue1/wuertz.html

Universal McCann. "When did we start trusting strangers? How the internet turned us all into influencers", Sep 08. http://www.universalmccann.com/Assets/strangers_reportLR_20080924101433.pdf

Figure 2: Universal McCann, "Trust by country", 2008. http://www.universalmccann.com/Assets/strangers_reportLR_20080924101433.pdf

In 2008, Synovate polled SNS users for their attitudes about privacy: they found that Brazil and the US are very concerned not only about "privacy" but also about "security".13 In aggregate, 69-79% of SNS users in Brazil and the US have privacy concerns. Compare this with India, which in aggregate only has 19% of its online users concerned with privacy issues. online. What is going on?

Clearly India is extremely open, while Brazil has

significant concerns. But both countries would be considered very active in sharing

Synovate. "Global survey shows 58% of people don't know what social networking is, plus over one third of social networkers are losing interest", 01 Sep 08. http://www.synovate.com/news/article/2008/09/global-survey-shows-58-of-people-don-tknow-what-social-networking-is-plus-over-one-third-of-social-networkers-are-losinginterest.html

IV.B. A Tale of Two Social Networking Cultures Within a Country Within our research, we found that the countries we were studying each had two SNSs competing directly against each other (except for Brazil). something quite different than the other, segmenting the market. Each SNS offered

IV.B.i. United States: Myspace and Facebook Myspace has, until just recently, been the largest SNS in the US. Facebook has just surpassed it in terms of active users. Facebook values having a fairly well-verified identity and discourages pseudonym profiles. It creates a real-world network. Myspace is far more pseudonymous and allows for fake profiles, band and organization pages, and offers far more style customization than Facebook's comparatively stodgy layout does. Myspace tends to be used by younger people or less-wired people, whereas Facebook is the standard within universities and, increasingly, within workplaces. As discussed earlier, Myspace and Facebook are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of selection of privacy controls. Both userbases have compensated for their appropriate situations: Myspace through fake profiles and blanket blocking, whereas Facebook has an ecosystem of different privacy postures from its users.

IV.B.ii. Russia: Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki Odnoklassniki is similar to the idea of classmates.com in the US: social

networking between students at an educational institution. Vkontakte looks extremely similar to Facebook, down to the blue color scheme and layout. While it is localized in Russian, it also offers an English version. Odnoklassniki and Vkontakte are about equal in terms of market share as of the latest numbers, but it should be expected that Vkontakte would continue to grow (it is

growing faster currently) because of its broader appeal, while Odnoklassniki is limited to its role as a facilitator for educational networking.

IV.B.iii. India: Orkut and Facebook In India, Orkut is immensely popular as a social networking tool, but Facebook is growing quickly, presumably because of increasing economic and social ties with the United States and the west as a standardized global social network. The growth of Orkut in India is perplexing, as Orkut is a Google-owned property created by a Turkish programmer and started in the United States. But now almost 18% of Orkut's users are in India, according to Orkut-conducted statistics.14

IV.B.iv. China: Xiaonei and Kaixin Kaixin is basically a clone of Xiaonei, and is growing quickly among the professional class who use it increasingly for gaming. Xiaonei has perhaps the secondbest privacy controls behind Facebook, and indeed is a Facebook clone. Xiaonei is geared more towards college students who have infrequent internet access.

IV.B.v. Brazil: Orkut and... Brazil is an outlier among the US and BRIC countries because its online social networking is dominated by Orkut. About 54% of Orkut's users are from Brazil15, and Google has allowed Google Brazil to take over all Orkut operations. Facebook is very slowly making inroads but the close-knit mostly homogeneous Brazilian society (in terms of religion, language, and culture) have helped consolidate Orkut's userbase there. Brazilians for the most part speak Portuguese together, worship Catholicism together, and live together (on the coasts, highly concentrated in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo),

Orkut.co.in. "Orkut demographics". http://www.orkut.co.in/Main#MembersAll.aspx Orkut.co.in.


and this seems to be enough to make them also network socially together, despite other socioeconomic differences.16

V. A Model for Online Openness vs. Closedness So what are the driving factors behind formation of two different social networks in a country? How much of a role does a cultural history, a political history, attitudes about privacy, etc. affect which SNSs dominate in a country? And then, after considering these cultural, political, and social factors, how much of it is wrought irrelevant by the network effects of consolidating many users onto one network? In other words, will the internet's norms dominate over national and cultural norms? It is hard to quantitatively study these questions, and we don't have the resources to do so for this research paper. However, I have tried to formulate a loose model plotting openness against closedness, seeing what the effects are of such behaviors, and then assigning them to the BRIC countries and the USA. After examining which macroforces are affecting decisions within the countries, I can then try to estimate what a future online social networking world will look like and recommend how to enable and encourage future SNS growth strategy. My model starts off with two axes, closedness and openness. The unit of analysis is the country's overall population. Closedness refers to one's initial tendency to keep something hidden by default and then reveal it to others individually -- privacy through obscurity and secrecy. Openness refers to the tendency to share information moreso than hiding it -- the binary opposite of being closed.


Turner, Ben. "Studying Brazil", International Values and Communications Technologies blog, 01 Feb 09. https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/isdyahoofellow/studyingbrazil/

Figure 3: Ben Turner's Transparency Model (full-size at http://benturner.com/other/privacy_model.jpg)

What dimensions affect attitudes about privacy, in all its varying definitions? Two larger themes emerge, the personal and political themes. I further broke the personal theme down into sub-themes: sexual, health, and financial. People can have completely different attitudes on being open about their sexual relationships than they have about their financial history which they may keep private. So these are separate sub-categories. But personal privacy is not like political privacy; personal privacy is akin to being hesitant or open with sharing to your peers and neighbors. Political privacy is about your relationship with the government. So next I wanted to look at the implications of the two axes on the different privacy categories. In a closed society where people do not share, one gets an externality of information asymmetry -- some people may know far more than others about something. Within the personal dimension, this might be closest to the ideology of libertarianism. What one does in his personal life is private to him -- he has a right to remain anonymous. A ruling by the Supreme Court in ACLU of Georgia v. Miller found that anonymous speech allows people to "avoid social ostracism, to prevent

discrimination and harassment, and to protect privacy."17 In the financial realm, a lack of openness can lead to the underlying causes of the banking crisis: shadow capital pools, unregulated by the financial oversight organizations. Politically speaking, closedness may lead to a breakdown in community, a disinterested citizenry, and goals driven mainly by individual gain and profit. The information symmetries which exist allow wealth to accumulate amongst oligarchic interests. Stephen Nock argues that:
"[a]lthough some may decry the establishment of computerized records of individuals as a 'loss of privacy', it would be more correct to see such developments as the cost of vastly expanded amounts of privacy. Indeed, there would be little need for massive databases on individuals were there no privacy... If we knew everything about everyone, there would be little reason to collect and store the details of their biographies. It is only because major portions of our everyday experiences are legitimately (often legally) defined as beyond scrutiny that distrust can arise. It is, in other words, only because we enjoy such great privacy that surveillance arises in the first place. privacy."18 To enjoy some degree of predictable social order, we may have either privacy and surveillance, or little

In an open society, there is also information asymmetry, but it takes the form of rumor-mongering and gossip. If everyone's free to say what they please, without any norms to govern them, then behaviors get called out and some people broadcast their behaviors to their community. There ends up being a lot of noise, as gossip is said to be up to two-thirds of all conversation19, and it becomes harder to filter out what is important. Indeed, Nicholas Emler says, "Gossip does not merely disseminate reputational information but is the very process whereby reputations are decided." 20

Bailey, Dennis. "The Open Society Paradox: Why the Twenty-First Century Calls for More Openness -- Not Less", Potomac Books Inc., 15 Dec 05, p. 29.

Bailey, p. 165.


Solove, Daniel. "The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet", Yale University Press, 28 Oct 08, p. 63.

Solove, p. 63.

Even further, it could be argued that extreme openness leads to immorality and exploitation by those who choose not to be as open as others (blackmailing someone whose foibles are known publically). Closedness can be even more a liability. Michael Froomkin, defender of

anonymity, is said by Dennis Bailey to be "on the mark when he acknowledges the reverse correlation between privacy and trust. In other words, the more privacy we have, the less likely we are able to trust someone. Knowing something about a person helps you make a reasonable judgment about whether to trust him or her."21 If closedness leads to an arms race in trying to protect unauthorized access of information (through encryption, obscurity, etc.) and openness leads to a breakdown in safety norms where people can easily hurt each other, then how can these two sides find compromise? How can we mitigate the faults and use the strengths of both? In my model, I've added a third axis between openness and closedness, and I've labeled it transparency. Transparency requires accountability, and many structures have been created to enforce accountability: peer-review in scientific research, religious norms, a justice system, rule of law, competitive democracy, and the free market system. Laws to reinforce these institutions center around reducing information asymmetry so that all parties know the situation and know what the penalties are for not complying. Says David Brin in "The Transparent Society", "In all of history, we have found just one cure for error -- a partial antidote against making and repeating grand, foolish mistakes, a remedy against self-deception. That antidote is criticism."22 "Trust and On Demand", a paper published by four IBM researchers, including Dr. Michael Nelson, refers to David Brin's seminal book, "The Transparent Society", saying that "... he argues that individuals and governments should look for ways to achieve “reciprocal transparency,” where instead of trying to restrict the flow of information, we try to increase the two-way flow of information between individuals and their government and between individuals and companies with which they do business.

Bailey, p. 184.


Brin, David. "The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?", Basic Books, 01 Jun 99, p. 10.

Brin argues that individuals will be willing to provide more information about themselves—provided they also get information back about how that information will be protected, who accesses it, and how it is used."23 Thus, as transparency satisfies the closed side's desire for protections against disabuse, it also accommodates the human desire to be social. Within the personal realm, transparency allows for self-actualization (making better individual, informed choices) and rising standards of living because of public safety rights and civil rights protections. It also enables themes of trust, reputation, and credit for financial and social transactions:
"Trust and the ability to take others at their word are basic ingredients in social order. If we never knew who to trust, could never be sure that what we were told was true, or that promises made would be promises kept, there would be little to bind us together or make groups cohesive."24

Politically, creating trust requires standards for equality through a bill of rights, guaranteeing equal access to resources. And it also allows for closed and open people to find consensus politically, if parties are held accountable to their word in providing resources.

V.A. The BRIC Countries and the USA Within This Model How would the USABRIC countries be classified within the model? The United States is a very open society socially, allowing for First Amendment guarantees of freedoms. So it does not fear its government very much. Interestingly, though, the US does seem to be far less social and open online when compared to other BRIC countries' behaviors. The US has a much broader population of users socioeconomically online than the other countries do, and seems to have far more divergence

Nelson, Michael R. and Schunter, Matthias and McCullough, Michael R. and Bliss, John S. "Trust and On Demand: Enabling Privacy, Security, Transparency, and Accountability in Distributed Systems", Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, 2005, p. 5.

Solove, p. 31.

in attitudes towards online usage. So the US would classify as a personally closed society with less fear of the government. Russia is similarly adverse to sharing online, polling as one of the lowest countries in terms of personal sharing. At the same time, Russians are certainly not allowed to speak out against the government, and journalists' attempts to report on this condition have led to cases of intimidation and murder. Thus, Russia is alone as a closed society with high fear of its government. Russia's SNSs, Odnoklassnike and Vkontakte, reflect the detachment from personal openness; Vkontakte is a Facebook clone and Odnoklassnike is a languishing property losing user growth. The same censorship exists within China, but socially, Chinese authorities allow Chinese to be extremely sociable and social online! Chinese are among the most active of cultures online, sharing all types of media far more than their peers. The Chinese know where the government line has been drawn on censorship -- that is, as long as it doesn't challenge the Party, it is okay -- but everything else goes. All internet traffic is monitored in China, so privacy controls do not matter so much except within a social dimension, and Chinese are not that concerned; while China has a Facebook clone with similar levels of privacy controls, the main application in Chinese SNSs is social gaming. Brazil and India are by far the most open and active social media users online. While Brazil has had some scandals involving wiretapping, this has been primarily against elites and not against the people. Brazil and India are also the most passionate users of Orkut, which lends itself to the idea that Orkut requires hyper-social userbases (it died out in the US). Orkut has a so-so degree of privacy control through its site, perhaps reflecting the lack of concern among its users. So Brazil and India have no problems being open online, with little fear of their government interfering.

V.B. A Crucible of Competing Interests As John Clippinger says,
"How do you create the conditions for socially constructed and enforced honest signaling? How can reputation signals be credibly communicated and authenticated? All variants of the answer entail, in one form or another, having persistent identities -- as individuals, groups, and institutions that are accountable to their reputations. Yet even before we can discuss what these identities might be, and how they might be secured, there is the prior question, how can new identities be defined and grounded on a global scale? But this raises a still more basic question: What are the credible origin narratives for a modern, global, diverse community? There must be new origin narratives that can credibly anchor individual and instiuttional identities to sacrosanct axioms about who and what were [sic] are as humans, recognizing that there is no such thing as the "individual" independent of the group. We are a crowd of one."25

Clippinger's unifying message is a good theme, moving forward. It is not that we should not have privacy or security, or that we should not be open. It is not even that we should hold each other accountable through transparency. We need all of these things. David Brin says,
"Transparency is not about eliminating privacy. It is about giving us the power to hold accountable those who would violate it. Privacy implies serenity at home and the right to be let alone. It may be irksome how much other people know about me, but I have no right to police their minds. On the other hand I care very deeply about what others do to me and to those I love. We all have a right to some place where we can feel safe. ... But I am sure of one thing. People of bad intent will be far more free to do harm in a world of secrets, masks, and shrouds than in a realm where the light is growing all around, bit by steady bit."26

By bringing together fierce advocates of privacy, openness, and transparency and accountability, we will be able to create trust online.

Clippinger, John. "A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity", PublicAffairs, 09 Apr 07, p. 179.

Brin, p. 334.

VI. Conclusion: Looking Forward Through the openness versus closedness model, I would theorize that there should be significant differences exhibited through online behavior among the BRIC countries and the US. The way that Brazilians use the social web should be far different than how Russia uses the social web, based on the model and large culture differences, not to mention because of the degree of online connectivity within each country. Yet cultural differences have not been amplified or even replicated very strongly onto the online space. Facebook dominates most English-speaking countries and has just surpassed Myspace as the most trafficked SNS in the US. Facebook is making rapid gains in France and India and other nations integrated into the online community. In countries where Facebook is not doing as well, at least one of the top competitors, such as in China or Russia, are blatant Facebook clones, with slightly weaker privacy controls. Facebook dominates online SNSs and looks to gain even more market share relative to its peers as it becomes the online standard for pure social networking. That the demand for standardization of a social networking platform overrides desire for cultural mapping says that the degree of customizability and control given to users on SNSs has not yet reached a point where users can represent themselves accurately. That is, users do not have the controls or features of granularity to map their identities online in ways that would match their typical cultural and community identities. Such a conclusion hints that the online space in terms of technical standards is already adequate, and what is now needed is development in cultural identity tools to help people customize, create, tailor, and socially groom themselves online, the way they would offline. What is missing is an identity layer for the Internet's stack design. Open standards to allow data portability, such as OpenID (which allows one login across multiple sites through a trust and verification system) and OAuth (requests your permission to transmit data from one site to another), will inevitably increase the ease of which users can share their information across sites without re-typing it all in. People

will become less "locked in" to using one site, and they can immediately get started across multiple sites. Says John Clippinger:
"The ability to build and leverage trust among members of a group builds social capital and significantly reduces transaction costs. For example, an organization with low-trust membership might have to invoke explicit legalistic methods where the intentions of the parties cannot be reliably inferred or depended upon. But because high-trust social networks are mutually interdependent, with all the parties having a common stake and a shared theory of mind, they require low coordination and low enforcement costs."27

In essence, a trust network is being created in the online community, consistent with the externalities of transparency within the openness versus closedness model. Eventually, once data can pass freely from one site to another with the owner's permission, there will be a "jailbreak" of people leaving locked-in sites. It is at this point, I would argue, that SNSs will truly begin to exhibit cultural differences, appealing to different demographics and races and national identities of people. It is at this point that finding a common standard for your entire social graph, through a Facebook, will become less of a priority, and being able to accurately exhibit yourself through niche SNSs will become the priority. Guarantee and facility of one's own data will enable selfexpression.


Clippinger, p. 72.