The man who can’t face the internet

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Earlier this month, Facebook announced it would be using facial recognition to let users know every time a photo of them had been uploaded to the site.

Such a feature would be extremely useful to one man – public-relations professional Jonathan Hirshon, who has managed to stay anonymous online for the past 20 years.

He has more than 3,000 friends on Facebook and regularly updates his profile with personal information – where he is going on holiday, what he has cooked for dinner and the state of his health.

But what he has never shared on the social network, or anywhere else online, is a picture of himself.

It is, he said, his way of “screaming my privacy to the world”.

“I choose to share virtually everything about myself on social media, but my face is the essence of me individually and this is about refusing to give up the last piece of identifiable information that I can control.”

One of the big debates of 2018 is going to be around our personal information – how we share it, what Facebook, Amazon and Google do with it and what should happen when it is stolen or hacked.

Part of that discussion will be played out in tough new EU laws coming into force in May, which aim to give citizens back control of their data.

Some believe the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will turn personal data into a commodity – as valuable as oil – that citizens can share and sell for their own benefit.

Mr Hirshon wishes the US would instigate similar laws but is doubtful that it will immediately lead to citizens getting rich on their own information.

“I’m totally in favour of it but in order to accomplish that, people will have to totally change their mindset when using social media.

“Right now, we enjoy them as [a] totally free service monetised by ads targeted very specifically at us because the services know so much about us.

“Until such time as we choose to pay for these services, when [we have] the option of keeping our data private and monetising it ourselves, the idea will remain just that – an idea.”

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