My friend Sanjana sent me an interesting blog post from the NYT today on privacy. Brad Stone: "We all cherish our privacy. Then we go and divulge everything about ourselves on Facebook, sprinkle our Social Security number like pixie dust across the Web and happily load up on tracking devices like GPS navigators and cellphones.
Researchers call this the privacy paradox: normally sane people have inconsistent and contradictory impulses and opinions when it comes to their safeguarding their own private information.
Now some new research is beginning to document and quantify the privacy paradox. In a talk presented at the Security and Human Behavior Workshop here in Boston this week, Carnegie Mellon behavioral economist George Loewenstein previewed a soon-to-be-published research study he conducted with two colleagues.
Their findings: Our privacy principles are wobbly. We are more or less likely to open up depending on who is asking, how they ask and in what context.
"...some students were presented with an official university Web site and asked to complete an on-screen survey about whether they had performed certain disreputable acts. Another set of students was presented with the same questions, but on an informal-looking site with the headline “How BAD are U??”, complete with a graphic of a smiling devil.
Which site would you feel more comfortable giving salacious details of your life to?
People answering questions on the devil’s page were significantly more likely to admit to having engaged in some illicit behaviors..."
I find that many in the younger generation have a privacy-by-volume attitude. So many people are using google and facebook and myspace, etc. that they figure no one is going to care about the information they toss into the whirlpool. Plus, ratty little websites like "How Bad R U" come and go all the time. What's the chance that information submitted there will make it to law enforcement? About nil. And law enforcement has neither the time nor the capacity to scan the internet for every admission of lewd or irresponsible behavior. They can't even match emails to identities easily. Plus, who's going to vet it? Maybe it was made up. Plausible deniability.
I agree with one of the posters: this is a transitional period. Yes, the Presidential candidate in 2038 will have a MySpace record from 2008, but so will pretty much everyone voting for him or her. The gotcha era of "I didn't inhale" and faked National Guard letters will be long gone by then.