The creepiness factor goes to 11

John Brownlee started a bit of storm on March 30 when he posted a story about Girls Around Me, an app for the iPhone. The idea behind the app is relatively simple - you turn it on, it finds your current location, and then it locates all of the people (men or women) who are currently nearby. The information is taken from public Facebook profiles and Foursquare check-ins. Brownlee tells a great story about the reaction of friends to whom he showed the app; they gradually move from fascination to a tingly ickiness and finally outright worry.

Social Conformity and Privacy

This list of 10 reasons why people conform to social pressure prompted me to dig into the drafts and publish my last post “Another Privacy Experiment.” A cursory search at Google Scholar shows a lot of material to wade through about the interaction between social conformity and privacy.

Another Privacy Experiment, with Money

An old idea (2008) from the drafts folder that I’m posting now. A related post back in 2008. Two people are interviewed by a single person. During the interview the interviewer tells the subject a private piece of information about a third person, called X. Three conditions: shares information without comment, tells subject not to share information, pays subject small amount ($10-$20) to not share information. Then the subject is interviewed by another person, perhaps at a later date.

The Prisoner - Old and New

I wanted to like the new version of The Prisoner on AMC but so far it’s been a failure. A big part of the problem is the absence of Patrick McGoohan. He was the key to the success of the original series and Caviezel is an inadequate replacement. What made McGoohan so good was his anger and a sense of danger. You really felt like he wanted to destroy the whole village if he didn’t escape.

A Privacy Experiment

First, create a questionnaire that asks increasingly private questions. Surely some social psychologist somewhere has developed an instrument or rubric that measures privacy or the perception of privacy. Make two versions of this questionnaire, one for individuals and another for organizations or businesses. Second, sample two groups of people. One group is given/asked questions about their personal private life. Ask people questions until they feel uncomfortable or refuse to answer further questions.

Information Privacy and Organizations

A recent forum on information ethics for the Minnesota Special Libraries Association prompted me to think about privacy. Assume that individual privacy is undergoing a massive shift because of the advent of large aggregate databases, technical innovations like the web, and, perhaps, a changing attitude among younger generations. The discussion at the meeting centered on social web applications like Facebook, Google, and LibraryThing. A lot of people are sacrificing privacy for the perceived value of a service like GMail, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

A minor tiff reveals a vital point: or the internet does it strange work again

I’m so far from actually being invited to the Friends of O’Reilly camp that occurred over the weekend that the discussion it engenders seems to be miles removed, but out of it comes a very perceptive comment from Danny O’Brien about the different registers in which online discussion takes place. The problem here is one (ironically) of register. In the real world, we have conversations in public, in private, and in secret.