I know it doesn’t have the same dactylic rhyme as “security through obscurity”, but the discussion we led at #cetis12 really drove home to me the fact that a lot of people rely on the laziness of others to remain private.
It turns out that a lot of people give away more data in reality than they say they would if you asked them. It’s called the privacy paradox. Many of the people who claim they want to remain private still post all their photos on Facebook and use Google for search, despite it being well known that they both harvest and hoard immense amounts personal data.
Some of this can be put down to people not knowing or reflecting on how things work behind the scenes, but I think there’s an element of expected behaviour from other people and relying on their laziness to keep our data private.
I have reached this conclusion by the reaction people have to making access to data easier. That is one of the fundamental aims of the Southampton Student Dashboard after all. Even though the data is accessible in one way or another (whether it is virtually trudging through Banner Self-Service or physically trudging down to student services to view the paper copy of a student record), people immediately raise privacy concerns as soon as you present an accessible interface to it.
An example of this came up in the discussion. One group were asked what directory information should be available on the University intranet, and the issue of photos was hit upon. When we ask the potential users of the Dashboard what information would be useful to them, photos are always high on their list. However, one of our participants countered with something along the lines of: “if students want others to see what they look like, they put photos on Facebook, just go look there”.
Well immediately that begs the question, if it’s already openly available, why make someone go to more effort to see your photo, unless you are hoping they will just give up and not bother?