This is the  new home for “Robin Wilton’s Esoterica”, a blog which originated on the now-defunct blogs.sun.com site in 2005, and then migrated to Blogger, as futureidentity.blogspot.com, in 2008.

Why the latest migration?

Well, I started using Blogger long before it was acquired by Google, and have since become more and more uneasy as Google started to engulf more and more of the online services that make the web an interactive and social place to be. I finally decided to ditch my Blogger account when Google unilaterally decided (1/3/2012) to make all its users’ data linkable, across all Google services, without the user’s consent.

Why is linkability such a big deal?

Because it erodes your ability to exercise consent, control and self-determination in your online activities. Simply put, when we interact socially we do so in a known context, and we adjust our interactions according to that context. That is normal, healthy human behaviour, and as social animals, we are used to identifying, maintaining and relying on contextual separation. You don’t, for example, tell your bank manager the same things you tell your spouse.

When a service provider like Google starts to join together the data you expose in different online contexts, it may not be a problem. It may even be what you intend. On the other hand, it may be something you explicitly wanted to avoid. (For example, you might be a women’s rights campaigner in a violently misogynistic society, and the wrong disclosure in the wrong context might  put your life in danger).

The point is that, if data is to be joined across contextual boundaries, that needs to be done under the informed consent and explicit control of the data subject. It’s all the more important in a case like this, where the service I signed up to did not even belong to Google at that point. Google’s latest change to their privacy policy fundamentally undermines that principle, and I have no wish to help them do it.