Ode to Obscurity

The recording of almost everywhere we go and everything we do has become increasingly cheap and easy. “Obscurity” is becoming rarer. Dr. Hartzog (law, computer science) and Dr. Selinger (philosophy) make the point that lack of obscurity may limit our growth as individuals:

Obscurity makes meaningful and intimate relationships possible, ones that offer solidarity, loyalty and love. It allows us to choose with whom we want to share different kinds of information. It protects us from having everyone know the different roles we play in the different parts of our lives. We need to be able to play one role with our co-workers while revealing other parts of ourselves with friends and family. . . .

Obscurity protects us from being pressured to be conventional. This buffer from a ubiquitous permanent record is especially important for the exploratory phase of youth. To develop as humans, people must be free to try things they might later regret. This is how we become better people. Without obscurity, we wouldn’t have the freedom to take risks, fail and dust ourselves off. We’d be stymied by the fear of being deemed failures by a system that never forgets.

Why You Are No Longer Safe in the Crowd

Is obscurity different than privacy? Or perhaps it is another name for a privacy concept that has a million shades of gray. Privacy is weird.