Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Small World Phenomenon: Privacy Issues

While we are always jumping at the very concept of the Small World Phenomenon, apart from all the other rumors and news that have been around, the issue of Aleksey Vayner is really going to surpass the heights of what can happen: thanks to the Small World Phenomenon!
As you would see in this article, the guy made his 'video' resume as a investment banking job applicant which eventually caught so much attention due to his athletic struts in it, that it made its way through all the popular email servers and social networking services like YouTube and MySpace.
The 'food for thought' is not the analysis of the cause and effect of these incidents. It is more grave and profound: an insight into how the very notion of the Small World Phenomenon has changed our perceptions, ethics, expectations and the way we interact with people in our social lives. In my view, if it has enabled us to better revive and sustain our geographically distant kith and kin, know people with similar interests, goals and profession, it has come to conflict people's notion of privacy too as we have seen in this case with Aleksey Vayner.
Privacy is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with in the design of all social networking frameworks. This is all the more difficult and different from the usual privacy maintenance because it deals with humans; people seek all different levels and notions of security. And managing privacy on a public domain with people from different socio-cultura backgrounds and age groups make it all the more a challenge! As I would like to present an excerpt,
"The private versus public boundaries of social media spaces are unclear. On the Internet, the illusion of privacy creates boundary problems. “New users and those engaged exclusively in recreational domains probably feel this illusion most strongly.” For example, in a television interview about Facebook, one of my students stated that she was concerned about revealing personal information online. When the reporter asked to see her Facebook page, the page contained her home address, phone numbers, and pictures of her young son. Without being aware of the dangers of online social sites, she had revealed too much personal information."

Similarly, ViĆ©gas’ (2005) research on bloggers suggests “there is a disconnect between the way users say they feel about the privacy settings of their blogs and how they react once they experience unanticipated consequences form a breach of privacy.” Lenhart (2005) reports that 81 percent of parents and 79 percent of online teens report “that teens are not careful enough about giving out their personal information online.” Moreover, parents of younger teens are more apt to be concerned about the disclosure of personal data.

Social networking tools, have almost become indispensable for teenagers, who often think their lives are private as long as their parents are not reading their journals. Teen use of social networking sites has increased to an average of one hour 22 minutes per day. Social networking sites are “already creating new forms of social behavior that blur the distinctions between online and real–world interactions.” For example, “when students began posting pictures of themselves at parties holding a beer and leaving messages that were hurtful, defamatory or demeaning, schools began considering ways to regulate the speech on [MySpace].” Adults tend to use the Web as a supplement to real–world activities while teenagers tend to ignore the difference between life online and off–line."

The privacy issue needs more attention as we move ahead on our research towards research excellence in social networks.

No comments: