Transparent, Translucent, and Opaque

You hear the term "transparency" used a lot these days. We want more of it in government, business, and education.

What is it?  A dictionary would say it is "free from pretense or deceit" or "readily understood" "characterized by visibility or accessibility of information."

But what we too often get - to follow this metaphoric usage - is translucency. That's a state when something is transmitting and diffusing light (or information) so that things cannot be seen clearly.

And, in the worst situations, things are opaque and we can't see anything or it is hard to impossible to understand or explain.

I have to admit that this post has been sitting in the queue (Tim might say that is has been "festering" there) for several months. I started it when Google zapped my AdSense account that I used on several websites and this blog. (Tim has since replaced it with his own.)

Google has taken some criticism for issues bigger than my account that seemed to lack transparency and clash with their "Do no evil" mantra. They are especially disliked in the European Union (the Germans are not fan boys - Jeff Jarvis has an interesting take on this) where privacy is defined and treated differently than in the U.S.

People weren't happy with the way they launched Buzz (privacy issues, no beta, using your Gmail contacts to grab an immediate base of users).

When they killed my AdSense account, the most frustrating part was that they didn't say why (they gave a link to possible reasons) and the ban is for life!

Google is not alone in getting criticism for their lack of transparency. Facebook seems to attract a lot of criticism each time they launch some new design. Why? It always seems to be something that is easy to correct. They make the default setting that your information is "public" and you have to set it to some level of privacy.  (It's like those business sites that pre-check the "subscribe to our newsletter" for you.)

Penelope Trunk wrote that the "value of your privacy is very little in the age of transparency and authenticity. Privacy is almost always a way of hiding things that don’t need hiding... And transparency trumps privacy every time. So put your ideas in social media, not email.”

And that seems to be the prevailing attitude from companies. Your information is our information.

But it's not all privacy. Apple is another company that has been hit with the lack-of-transparency arrow. Take the new iPad. They say that the iPad is a blockbuster with 1 million sold in 28 days, but their fanatic need for secrecy even about sales seems absurd at times. Why are they really trying to kill Adobe Flash? Did you follow the whole lost iPhone prototype story? Their lack of transparency is making them disliked as a company in the way that Microsoft attracted criticism and Google is beginning to have its enemies. David Carr in the NY Times criticized Apple for their handling of the Gizmodo iPhone case, and the government may be checking into whether Apple is engaging in antitrust activities.


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