Privacy Salience

This is an interesting story about a study of the economics of privacy in social networking:

The most interesting story we found though was how sites consistently hid any mention of privacy, until we visited the privacy policies where they provided paid privacy seals and strong reassurances about how important privacy is. We developed a novel economic explanation for this: sites appear to craft two different messages for two different populations. Most users care about privacy about privacy but don’t think about it in day-to-day life. Sites take care to avoid mentioning privacy to them, because even mentioning privacy positively will cause them to be more cautious about sharing data. This phenomenon is known as “privacy salience” and it makes sites tread very carefully around privacy, because users must be comfortable sharing data for the site to be fun. Instead of mentioning privacy, new users are shown a huge sample of other users posting fun pictures, which encourages them to  share as well. For privacy fundamentalists who go looking for privacy by reading the privacy policy, though, it is important to drum up privacy re-assurance.

Personally, social networking sites concern me less from a privacy standpoint than institutions such as the government and financial institutions. I follow the rule that sites can’t disclose what they don’t know. I simply won’t voluntarily give any site personal information that I want to be kept private. If they ask for it, I just make stuff up. Unfortunately that is usually not an option when dealing with financial or government institutions.

I guess that makes me a privacy fundamentalist.

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