The Ambivalent Facebooker

What would you do if you received a message on Facebook from your own account, letting you know that someone had hacked your account and knew your location?

Surely you would be alarmed. But say for instance you weren’t, because maybe you think Facebook is glitchy sometimes (don’t get me wrong, it is) and that it was some weird spam thing. Deleting it will make it go away, right?

What if then you received another message. One that was spookier, creepier, and more detailed.

I know I’d probably flip out.

That’s what privacy experts do for research- and this article details the process and the results of trying, and failing, to alert individuals of their lack of privacy measures.  It goes along with my question regarding the consumer aspect: the work of these researchers shows that people seem to be ambivalent about privacy, regardless of the amount of press or information they are exposed to about the risks.

There’s a large group of consumers that will make the biggest impact on Facebook and privacy, and it’s those 2/3 Americans who are what the article calls “privacy neutral.” What exactly does this mean? It means that they claim to care about their privacy, but then make no concrete efforts to actually do anything.

It seems like on one end there is the attitude- and on the other end is the behavior. So what do we have to do to have the two meet together in such a way as to understand the risks, guard against them, and not end up paranoid anti-social-networking activists?

The article’s best analogy was this: it’s like when you are in line to buy lunch, and there’s this cookie that’s screaming your name. You buy it, knowing it’s not good for you, but figuring it’s just once and it won’t hurt. But then it becomes a learned habit, and you buy one the next week, or even the next few days, and eventually you’re adding to your svelte swimsuit bod.

We don’t think that it’s going to be problematic to sign up for that Kroger card. But it could end in annoying junk mail. Still not a huge deal. But then it could become intense profiling by marketers, and could ultimately lead a your medical insurer to think that your habitual purchase of 500 calorie cookies requires an increase in your health premium.

So some of these researchers think that creating government sponsored legislation will bring an end to the long list of 27-page privacy policies and user agreements, and might actually benefit the consumer. Even the consumers that read my blog and know what to do to protect themselves.

What I would like you all to take from this is that this isn’t exaggeration- it isn’t hyperbole or me standing on a soapbox. This issues are real and can become even more real if nothing is done.

So until then, as always, be careful what you post.


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