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The Next Social Media We Want and Need!

Crypto giant David Chaum explains his PrivaTegrity, and tells why it’s so vital

Backchannel Editor’s note: I first met David Chaum in 1994, while writing a story about digital money for Wired Magazine, and he became a key source and subject for my 2001 book, Crypto. He emerged in the news this month as the inventor of PrivaTegrity, a new social media system. His proposal drew a lot of attention and some strong criticism from some sectors of the security community. Since I have always known David as one of the fiercest advocates of privacy I’ve ever met, as well as someone exceedingly skeptical of government encroachment, I encouraged him to explain his ideas here on Backchannel, in his own words. –Steven Levy

By David Chaum

In the rush to build out the web, it was structured around concepts taken from paper-based media. Now, many feel a strong need for a next level of security and privacy, a level that cannot be provided by such structures. What’s at stake is not only the future of social media, but that of democracy itself.

Last week, while preparing a lecture, I searched quickly for some charts showing survey results for social media usage and privacy. The huge mismatch between what people want and what they are getting today was stunning. Social media I learned are used mainly for communicating with relatives and close friends with the next most significant use relating to political discourse. Yet social media was at the bottom of the trust rankings, with only 2 percent confidence. About 70 percent of respondents said they are very concerned about privacy and protection of their data.

Today’s social-media, as McLuhan said is always the case, initially copied the old media, but will next realize its full potential [The Essential Marshall McLuhan, (1995), Eric McLuhan & Frank Zingrone eds. Don Mills, ON. ISBN-13: 978–0465019953]. This also resonates with what Maslow told us, people focus on the current need level until it is met (in this case basic social-media functionality) and only then switch focus to a new need defining the next level up (protecting informational self-determination). Technology permitting, a next level would seem inevitable.

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