Lilian and Ian have just completed a chapter for a forthcoming book to be edited by Andrea Matwyshyn. They presented a really interesting talk at Gikii II last autumn about the privacy settings in Facebook, Stalking 2.0: privacy protection in a leading Social Networking Site, and this chapter serves to round off this work. I've been reading Data Control and Social Networking: Irreconcilable Ideas? this afternoon and recommend it highly.
" The future of both law and technology will require reconciling users' desire to self-disclose information with their simultaneous desire that this information be protected. Security of personal information and user privacy are potentially irreconcilable with the conflicting set of user preferences regarding information sharing behaviours and the convenience of using technology to do so. Social networking sites (SNSs) provide the latest and perhaps most complicated case study to date of these technologies where consumers' desire for data security and control conflict with their desire to self-disclose. Although the law may provide some data control protections, aspects of the code itself provide equally important means of achieving a delicate balance between users' expectations of data security and privacy and their desire to share information."
They raise serious concerns about the almost universal ignorance of the users of social networking sites about the uses of their sensitive private data by the owners of these sites and other third parties. They also suggest some ways forward, including privacy enhanced software/code architectures for such sites, as the abstract above notes.
The main value of this work though is in the clear and comprehensive analysis of the issues and their clarion call for an urgent review of how social networking sites might be regulated, through law and/or code, in a way which builds in a default respect for the privacy of their users and, in addition, recognises the wider value of privacy to society as a whole. Policymakers in government and industry please take note.