Not so long ago I found myself in characteristically pugnacious discussion with a senior human rights figure. The issue was privacy. Her view was that there was an innate and largely unchanging human need for privacy. My view was that privacy was a culturally determined concept. Think of those open multiseated Roman latrines in Pompeii, and imagine having one installed at work.

The specific point was whether there was a generational difference in attitudes towards privacy, partly as a consequence of internet social networking. I thought that there was. As a teenager I told my parents absolutely nothing and the world little more. Some girls of that era might be photographed bare-breasted at a rock festival, and some guys might be pictured smoking dope but, on the whole, once we left through the front door, we disappeared from sight.

My children — Generation Y, rather than the Generation X-ers who make most of the current fuss about privacy — seem unworried by their mother’s capacity to track them and their social lives through Facebook. In fact, they seem unworried by anybody’s capacity to see what they’re up to — until, of course, it goes wrong. They seem to want to be in sight, and much effort goes into creating the public identity that they want others to see.

There was an estimate last month that Facebook has something like 130 million unique visits every day. It now acts as a vast market place for ideas, preferences, suggestions and actings-out, extending far beyond the capacity of conventional institutions to influence. And the privacy issues it raises have little to do with the conventional obsessions such as CCTV or government data-mining. Read full article in The Times...