Privacy, social media and lavatories

In the United States advisors to the White House have published their review of internet privacy and are calling for an Internet Privacy Bill of Rights.  Is ‘privacy’ possible in the era of big data and social media?

Twitter is reportedly looking to develop a ‘whisper mode’ that will ensure users can keep their conversations private without having to move to one-to-one direct messaging. This seems to be in addition to Twitter’s much-discussed, but not yet delivered private messaging app (see this article in Endgadget).

Talk of a whisper mode has come too late for one Swedish student.  Her abusive tweet about a lecturer (details of which have not been published) have led to her being suspended for two weeks by her university, which found that her lecture hall tweet was “meant to violate and ridicule” the teacher.

A private pregnancy

Meanwhile in the United States a Professor at Princeton University set about trying to keep her pregnancy a secret from Facebook and social media advertisement algorithms. Apparently, pregnant women are considered a ‘marketing goldmine’ and their data can be worth 15 times as much as other people’s.   Over on ThinkProgress.org she describes how she tried to hide from ‘big data’.  Her activities ranged from asking friends and colleagues not to mention her pregnancy anywhere online to buying baby products with cash to setting up a new Amazon account with an anonymous delivery address.  Not only was attempting to keep her pregnancy a secret difficult, it was expensive (losing loyalty card discounts etc) and extremely time-consuming.  You can read her full interview here – a fascinating story about the reach of big data and the compromises we are all making, every day.

The hoax quantified toilet

This fake story about the installation of ‘intelligent lavatories’ in a Canadian conference centre, raises some interesting issues.  The idea that public facilities could be collating useful public health data is not that far-fetched after all.  In fact, in a real piece of research 70% of respondents would be willing to share their ‘toilet data’ – for lower health care costs!

This article first appeared on Information Today Europe.

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Posted in Information Risk, Social media