Saturday, January 10, 2009

Two-faced book?

On Tuesday, January 6, 2009, Facebook hosted a conference entitled "Privacy 2009: The Year Ahead" at its Palo Atlo headquarters. One of the more interesting discussions at the conference was whether or not Facebook or other social network service providers should enable their customers to create and maintain multiple profiles for each of their personas.

Jim Dempsey, VP for Public Policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology and one of the panelists at the conference, noted that it is common for users to maintain separate personas for different social circles. For example, it is common for an individual to have a 'work persona' for the office, 'parent persona' when dealing with his or her children, and a 'social persona' when interacting with close friends. According to Dempsey, people prefer to keep these personas seperate. Specifically, people are unlikely to want their 'parent' or 'social' persona to define their interactions at work. Some of the conference panelists used these facts to argue in favor of allowing users to create multiple profiles for their multiple personas.

It seems to me that having the ability to create multiple profiles will create more privacy problems. Users may be encouraged to post more information about themselves via the maintainence of multiple profiles. Additionally, an individual's personal information may be more available as it will be stored in multiple and possibly more available profiles.

I think the most reasonable solution to this dilemma is to allow users to have more fine grained control over the information in their profile. For example, the user should be able to control the content their co-workers see in their profile versus what their family members see and so on. This ability to control how your personal information is shared seems to align with the definitions of privacy that we encountered in our reading, such as Charles Fried's definition of privacy as the right to control information about oneself.

Discussion for Class

Do you have multiple personas for different situations in your life? Would you like to have multiple profiles on Facebook or MySpace to mirror these multiple personas? If not, would you like to have more control over what information you display in your profile to different groups of 'friends'? For example, would you like to limit your co-workers from seeing what your friends write on your wall and vice-versa?

1 comment:

Charlie T said...

In my life, I definitely display multiple personas depending on the situation at hand. I would not act the same way in a college or job interview in that I would around my closest friends or family. I think this has a lot to do with a feeling of security and putting my best foot forward. In terms of a college interview, I am not going to reveal my most intimate thoughts because I do not feel particularly comfortable with the person that I just met for the first time. Whereas, if I am with a family member or a close friend, I have no problem disclosing more personal information with them, because I feel more secure talking to them. At the same rate, I am going to put on my best act to look the sharpest and seem the smartest at my interview, because that first impression could land me the job or get me into that school. I need to be firing on all cylinders, because one little blemish could hold me back. On the other hand, when I am conversing with my friends and family, there is no pressure to put on this act or to seem particularly smart, because they know who I am as a person. They understand me on a much deeper level, than someone who has just met me for the first time would ever be able to. Therefore, in everyday life multiple personas are utilized, because separate situations call for them.
Despite having different personas in “real life,” I would never want to have multiple personas in cyberspace—that is for the purpose of entertaining different types of people. I believe that this infringes on who you truly are as a person. In “real life” when you change your persona it is only for a little bit of time; whereas, online these multiple personas a permanent and give of the heir of being “full-time” people. To me this is not right, because you are dedicating a page or two pages, to someone who actually does not exist, which I think is wrong. Your profile online should embody some different “real life” personas that one displays, but by no means should there be distinct profiles dedicated to each “real life” persona. I do not think that it is a bad idea to limit what others can see, but at the same rate I find it to be very risky to put overly personal matters on Facebook or MySpace, because someway or another somebody is going to find that information about you. Therefore, your online profile should show you are as a person, but it should not delve into your entire life. If somebody wants to get to know you, they should meet you in person; rather, than rifle through online websites.