16 July 2009

The social networking privacy paradox

In The Guardian today Bruce Schneier discusses how social networking sites need to tick privacy boxes in order to encourage people to use them. Without privacy reassurances, some people simply won't use a site. At the same time SN bosses know that reassuring people about privacy has the undesired effect of making them more cautious about the information they will divulge. Reassurance increases the salience of any privacy concerns people hold. Schneier cites lab studies at Carnegie Mellon showing these effects in action.

User caution is precisely the opposite of the behaviour social networks want to encourage: users' personal information is at the core of the businesses' ability to earn revenue. Which is why, according to Schneier, Facebook buries its current 61 (yes) privacy settings.

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