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The following paper is an analysis of the interview on habits of information sharing. It overviews the responses of four participants, outlines the similarities between them, and isolates several key differences. The review allows me to conclude on the reasons and motivation behind certain behaviors displayed by the respondents by applying dual system theory. Such an approach allows me to make several preliminary conclusions on the social tendencies which define the said behaviors and point to the direction for a further inquiry which may increase understanding of the undergoing changes in perception of privacy and security.
Description of Interviews: Main Findings
The information-sharing habits identifiable through reviewing the responses are largely similar among respondents, with notable differences in several particularities. Generally speaking, all four respondents voice similar concerns for privacy and show a similar degree of involvement in the question of addressing it, with one notable exception (discussed below). All four individuals describe almost identical habits and purposes of using social media – communication, keeping in touch with friends, entertainment, and obtaining information.
Another notable purpose expressed explicitly in the first interview but observed to some degree in the other three responses is voicing and sharing one’s ideas. All four subjects also state minor concerns with the possibility of a security breach and give some details of the protective measures they use to maintain privacy (making sure the shared information contains no data which may help to figure out their identity or location).
Interestingly, while all four individuals express concerns with a vulnerability of information posted online, only one (number 3) can provide details of the measures which may prevent disclosure (changing privacy settings of his Facebook account) while the statements of others are observably vague and unspecific. This notably coincides with the lack of understanding of the nature of sensitive information: two of four respondents use “non-offensive” as a primary criterion for sharing information when asked for advice on sharing something online.
This may be a viable approach, as can be seen from the case of “dog poop girl” which achieved notoriety primarily as a result of inappropriate social behavior (Solove, 2007). Nevertheless, it also confirms poor understanding of security issues coupled with a relaxed attitude to it.
Next, three of four respondents identified the reputation of the resource as the main criterion for deciding upon its safety by stating that they feel safer for their personal information when to submit it to a well-known website, although two of three specify their awareness of the possibility of a successful hacker attack on any resource. Finally, while all four respondents voice their dissatisfaction with what they identify as a meaningless use of social media, only one prioritizes the informative value of Facebook and denounces Instagram based on this criterion. This fact, coupled with the relaxed attitude and lack of a clear understanding of technicalities, points to the lack of serious safety concerns.
Analyses and Critique
While the scope of the interview and the small number of participants does not allow to arrive at definite conclusions, I can make several assertions based on the obtained information. The voiced concern with a vulnerability of shared information finds only minor reflection in the actual behavior. Such discrepancy between the perceived awareness of the issue and the negligence reinforced with a relaxed attitude can be partially explained by applying the dual system theory.
The automatic system, which in this case is responsible for the initial decision to submit sensitive information based on the reputation of the web resource, is intuitive (relying on the unrelated market image) and effortless (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). The reflective system, which is associated with an in-depth inquiry and additional effort, is responsible for producing the later remarks of unlikely invulnerability, comes with a delay, and, in some cases, is not presented at all. However, that does not necessarily imply ignorance or the lack of technical proficiency.
Several tendencies can be acknowledged as contributing to the observed effect. First, while the public nowadays is showing a growing awareness of the difficulties associated with privacy breaches possible due to the persistent nature of online data, the very notion of privacy is getting reconsidered (Montopoli, 2013). In other words, instead of a lack of motivation, the behavior of the respondents may be defined by genuine readiness to disclose certain information that they do not deem worthy of preserving.
Second, the decision can be partially explained by the wrong perception of big data and algorithms behind it, which creates a distorted image of unruly and incomprehensible fields depriving individuals of chances to make a difference (Villasenor, 2015).
Finally, the non-offensive nature of the shared information suggested by two of four participants as an instruction for information sharing, which at the first sight may appear as compliance with social norms, may be an early sign of adaptation to the laws of social media dimension, where the controversy and strong emotional response define visibility (and, by extension, safety) of the published information (Bosker, 2013), although, admittedly, the latter interpretation is largely speculative and requires further inquiry.
Several social implications can be made based on the analysis. First, social media today is mostly associated with entertainment and leisure. Despite the stated use as means of communication, judging by the description of the reported applications (or lack thereof) the said communication is not likely charged with important information. This notably coincides with weak concern for the breach of privacy, which may or may not be caused by negligence.
The omnipresence of social media coupled with inevitable consequences of accessibility of online services inevitably reshapes the understanding of privacy and, as a result, is at least partially responsible for the lack of interest ineffective means of data protection, as well as a visible effort aimed at improving technical or legal proficiency in the said question. In other words, the results may be interpreted as cautioning against insecure information sharing behavior, but can also serve an early indication of changing the social perception of privacy.
After all, a middle ground is currently sought between the possibility of removing sensitive information and preserving freedom of speech. It is possible that a similar process is occurring on a subtle level in society and the interview results indicate its earliest signs of progress.
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Second, the tendency to skip on policies and privacy settings and rely on intuitive perception instead should be acknowledged by policymakers of web resources. Specifically, the presence and content of the said options should be rethought to either improve the involvement of the public or minimize the need for such involvement. Since considerable effort can already be observed in pursuing the former goal, and there is no obvious way to effortlessly achieve the latter, it is recommended to allocate additional resources for further inquiry on the matter. This will allow capitalizing on the changing trends in information sharing behavior and can present additional marketing opportunities.
Bosker, B. (2013). Doesn’t this just make you so mad? (Now go ‘like’ it). Web.
Montopoli, B. (2013). Should there be a “right to be forgotten” online?. Web.
Solove, D. J. (2007). The future of reputation: Gossip, rumor, and privacy on the Internet. London, England: Yale University Press.
Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2008). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. London, England: Yale University Press.
Villasenor, J. (2015). In defense of algorithms. Web.