Have you ever heard a talk of Jeff Jarvis? He’s a brilliant speaker, invited to many conferences due to that. He’s able to provoke the audience, to convince and to influence - by stating the obvious. But I never heard anything either new or even seriously complex from Mr. Jarvis. He has been talking a lot on Media issues, and most of it was easy to strip down to ‘change has come but the media is not prepared’. He focuses on stating the obvious, predicting the present and giving the wonderful advice ‘think yourself’. Have you ever read his popular ‘What would google do?’ He recommends to focus on your customers needs. Oh, well. That’s already written in one of the oldest book my family owns from the 1840s, a how-to-guide for merchants. But who focuses on the customer? Google? Well…
Jeff Jarvis moved on to the ‘paradoxon’ of the german privacy discussion. Well, Jeffs German is not that bad, so he can read a lot in my mother tongue and probably has some idea about the german mindset. He has seen naked people on the beach and in the spa, maybe even in public parks sometimes (most people don’t do so-called FKK anyway, but thats a different story). But what he does not understand at all is that the constitutional right to informational self-determination is not only privacy, but also publicness. It’s your choice, as long as it does not affect others. The modern discussion of this particular right started with this opinion from 1972, provided by law scientists on request of the Ministry of Interior. Since then, the discussion has faced many twists and for a long time the question of the states role in the privacy and security relationship prevailed over the question of personally identifiable information held by private companies. It is one of the most difficult questions how to maintain the right balance between participating in the public and at the same time not being discriminated by hidden aggregation of data which leads to an asynchronous level of information about who knows how much about you, which is seen to be ultimately a scenario where citizens are jailed in information collected and processed by others without proper counter measures.
But time changes and now we face a highly problematic asnychronous scenario: companies from countries may collect and process your data without proper safeguards and without your knowledge. Of course you may say, everybody knows that Google or Facebook are residing in the US. But many people just don’t know they are not protected as much as they were if it was a German company. Being a consumer should not turn out to be a full time job and not to study international law. From a consumer perspective, there is a simple understanding: if you want my money, my data, my knowledge - whatever: my law is applicable and enforcable. As soon as a company aims at the consumers market, it has to obey to these rules, whether they like it or not. If you decide not to do so, it’s fine. If you decide you want to have the laws changed, that’s fine, too. But first you got to change the law. Everything else is not only disrespectful behavior, it’s also a threat to consumers.
Being a brilliant speaker is not enough for a discussion such as this. You got do dig into the analysis of what’s going on, what’s the state you are coming from and what’s actually the goal you have - and what are the values you build your theory on.
I heard a lot of complaints of citizens who simply do not understand what Google does and what it means and why a company might be allowed to take pictures in the public. They feel insecure, badly protected and at the mercy of a company they have no tools to enforce their rights against them. You have to treat their concerns in a serious way. Not by making fun of them if some of them might be unreasonable. Not by putting the pressure on them as some people want to do. Help them understand and help them enforce their rights. ‘What would Google do?’, as shallow as it is, should be rewritten by Jeff Jarvis by using the example of lack of understanding of what’s going on in Germany regarding privacy concerns. The new chapter should be named: ‘Fail like Google does’. Yes, the German Paradoxon is a paradoxon. But paradoxon has two meanings: either something is contradictory or it just appears (para) to be. The German Paradoxon in my opinion is the second, not the first.