Science Friday: Protecting Your Privacy On Social Networking Sites

Last Friday (May 21, 2010), I had the great pleasure of being a guest on Science Friday, the weekly science and technology show hosted by Ira Flatow, airing live each Friday on NPR’s popular Talk of the Nation radio show. The show’s topic was Protecting Your Privacy On Social Networking Sites, and I was joined by Rich Mogull of Securosis, and Kevin Underhill, a lawyer and author of the “Lowering The Bar” blog.

You can listen to the entire show, and read the transcript, here. (Apologies for any excessive “um”s or “you know”s — I had just flown back to Milwaukee on the redeye a few hours before the program.)

We covered a lot of terrain over the course of the 35-minute segment: Facebook’s recent privacy changes and the critical responses, recent comments made by Facebook executives, the revelation earlier Friday that Facebook was reportedly sharing personally-identifiable information with advertisers, and issues related to the agreement between Twitter and the Library of Congress to archive public tweets.

One caller was concerned about how applications that his friends use on Facebook might compromise his own data. I suggested he go to the Applications and Websites section of the privacy settings, and adjust the “What your friends can share about you” settings. My recommendation is to ensure none of these items are selected.

I also mentioned a few academic studies. The first was “The FTC and Consumer Privacy in the Coming Decade” by Joseph Turow, Chris Hoofnagle, Deirdre Mulligan, Nathaniel Good, and Jens Grossklags. Among this important article’s findings is that when users see the term “privacy policy,” they believe that their privacy will be protected and assume that a web site will not share their personal information. Of course, this is not the case.

The second study I mentioned was “How Different are Young Adults from Older Adults When it Comes to Information Privacy Attitudes and Policies?” by Chris Hoofnagle, Jennifer King, Su Li, and Joseph Turow. This equally-important article suggests that while young Americans — like their adult counterparts — indeed have expectations of privacy online, there is a significant gap in their understanding about what websites are doing with their personal information, and because of this they “participate in an online reality that is optimized to increase their revelation of personal data.”

There’s much more in the transcript, and if anyone wants additional citations or explanations from the show, please leave me a message.

1 comment

  1. Thanks for this post! the links were really informative, and helped in a project my group is doing on data mining. 🙂

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