/ August 29, 2011

Online Privacy Takes Another Hit

Photo Credit Alan Cleaver

“The cultural changes wrought by the Internet are not yet done, because our understanding as a society of exactly what information is on the Internet is not complete” says Kevin Gold of Slate magazine. What if all the Facebook privacy settings in the world couldn’t stop someone from prying into the details of your life which aren’t even written down, never mind posted on Facebook for the world to see?  Kevin Gold’s recent article explores how simple statistical analysis can reveal more than a typical Facebook user would care to actively share in their own profile. While you may not feel comfortable sharing sensitive aspects of your personal life some of your friends might not mind, if only indirectly. A study out of Northeastern University, “has shown that it takes only a 20 percent participation rate among college students in filling out profile information to deduce facts—such as major, year, and dorm—about the nonresponders who simply friended others.” When you consider the similarities between those who you associate with it’s not surprising that researchers can deduce an uncomfortable amount of information about one person simply by learning about their digital peers.  This fact has even made some give up on the notion of privacy all together.  The choice seems reasonable especially when we consider the alternative of living with the headaches or dropping the digital social lifestyle all together.

Don’t relax just yet, with our increased visual presence online there exists another opportunity to unknowingly pass along private information. Research by Ming-Zher Poh, Daniel J. Mcdug, and Rosalind Picard found that pulse information can be taken from a basic webcam.  This technology would theoretically allow a savvy individual to deduce one’s mental and/or emotional state by simply analyzing a grainy headshot. Well, I guess it’s time to start working on that poker face.

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