Me, MySpace, and I: Sharing, Privacy, and Trust in the Networked World

Alane Wilson from OCLC spoke of this work-in-progress research about online privacy and behavior. The report compares librarians’ online behavior with that of the rest of the general population in the US, UK, Japan, France, and Germany and takes a look at where we currently are with the reality of online privacy and individuals’ own perceptions of their privacy.

Ms. Wilson talked about this being the 3rd wave of computing in which there is Ubiquitous Computing (“Ubicomp”). We are no longer tethered to a desktop machine and the technology has receded into everyday life. Current estimates show that 120,000 blogs are being created every day, showing a solid trend of community authorship and individually-driven content. Take a look at Amazon, Netlix, Barnes & Noble and you get an idea of how much people enjoy contributing their thoughts to the masses—it’s not even necessary to delve into the blogosphere to see how companies are harnessing user-driven content.

In regards to privacy, Ms. Wilson said “the footprints we leave behind will not melt away”, meaning that the things we put out there online will be searchable, archived, and cached on servers all over the world. She believes that 21st century civic behavior will be characterized by this idea, and that intervention by educators (schools and libraries, namely) is essential. Survey results have shown that there is a big gap between what’s actually happening in regards to individual privacy and what we’d prefer to have happen. Most people say that they don’t want their personal information to fall into the wrong hands and would prefer not to leave a trail, yet they often do not choose anonymity on the internet, as they very well could. It’s a conundrum! Individual users have the power to keep their personal information private while contributing, yet they are stuck in the “nothing bad will happen to me” frame of mind. At this time, the survey data has not been posted. I will be anxious to read the full report which will hopefully be out this summer.

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