Risky pier

What are the risks of using social media?

As part of my ongoing research into the ways in which social media are regulated I am conducting a short survey (15 minutes maximum).  http://bit.ly/Jem5qK.

If, like me you are a regular user of online social networks (OSNs), you must sometimes wonder how information about you is used and distributed.  Although Mark Zuckerberg once famously said: “The age of privacy is dead” … users are becoming increasingly aware of their rights.  The revelations in June 2013 about harvesting of personal data by national security services has raised the temperature of the debate.

As part of the contract between you and the online social network, you are effectively making your data available for exploitation.  Some of this may be to your benefit, by targeting product information and links that reflect your interests, but other uses may not be so benign.  Sometimes the distinction between the two is not clear.  For instance when do tailored ads become a nuisance?  It the ads are mismatched to your interests, is that because there is no profiling or because they have made assumptions based on your demographics?  Why else would a rather skinny middle-aged man be bombarded with ads about “Try this amazing secret method to lose belly fat” on Facebook?

One of the challenges of this research is to try and document the different types of risk that individuals are exposed to when their personal data falls outside their control.  The survey is intended to reach a wider range of users to find out their views and ideas about the risks that they are exposed to.

The survey also aims to find out what you think about possible ways of regulating access to personal data.  Without some form of regulation (in the broadest sense – i.e. not just law), there are very few remedies available to protect users.  Lessig suggests that there are four approaches to regulating the internet: Law, Mode Code and Market.  These modes can be adapted to regulation of online social networks.  The eventual aim of this research is to see if there is a way of comparing different modes of regulation and whether this approach would be useful more generally.

This survey builds on a preliminary survey that I conduced in 2011 and which was reported in an earlier blog.

Click here to participate in the survey.  http://bit.ly/Jem5qK– I shall be reporting the results in a later blog.


About the author

David Haynes

David Haynes

David is a Director of Aspire². His interests lie in metadata, information taxonomies and information governance. He is an experienced PRINCE2 practitioner. David leads courses on his specialist areas and is author of ‘Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval’. Currently he is researching on the regulation of information at City University, London.