Stutzman, IDMA and IMS Code 2006
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Stutzman, F. An evaluation of identity-sharing behavior in social network communities. In: Proceedings of the 2006 iDMAa and IMS Code Conference, Oxford, Ohio. (2006)
An evaluation of identity-sharing behavior in social network communities
Social network communities (SNC) share the identity information over the network. The protection of an individual's identity is on high priority for a number of institutions but people actively undermine the protections through participation in SNCs. These SNCs allows a user create richly detailed personal profile where data ranges from relatively innocuous to potentially invasive. Third parties can mine a SNC for an individual's identity information. SNCs are dramatically changing how identity information is shared online. This paper develops a measure of how SNCs are redefining the identity sharing behavior of a campus population. The authors have presented the results of a quantitative analysis of identity information disclosure in social network communities, as well as subject opinions regarding identity protection and information disclosure. They develop quantitative metrics on SNC participation on a college campus and investigate and comparatively analyze population attitudes about participation in SNC’s, and population attitudes about online identity sharing in general.
The research goals in this paper were guided by following questions:
- Which SNC’s do students participate in?
- What identity information is disclosed in the SNC’s? How does it compare to identity information previously disclosed by the university?
- How much identity information are students disclosing in SNC’s?
- What are student opinions about identity information disclosure in SNC’s?
Students were selected at random to complete a survey on their use of SNCs and about their filling of identity information. Survey had two parts. The first one being quantitative where students indicated which SNCs they participated in. The second part consisted of questions, asking students information about their identity information disclosure. The questions asked students mainly about what they feel about their SNC profiles being accessed and how they feel about sharing information. These surveys were then analyzed to answer the goal questions.
71 percent of all respondents participated in a SNC. The undergraduates were among the majority (90% reported participation) as compared to G/P students (44 percent reporting participation). The most popular SNC was TheFacebook, with 90 percent of undergraduates reporting use. Friendster and MySpace were the other common (used by more than two respondents) SNC’s reported by respondents.
Figure 1 gives information about the elements which are requested by The Facebook and MySpace. The Facebook was selected for analysis as it had the highest level of participation. For each student that indicated use of TheFacebook, the student’s profile is ”discovered ”in the service. Students are located in the service only with information publicly disclosed in the student directory, thereby ensuring that the investigator remains an outsider. Student responses to information requested by TheFacebook are marked in the disclosure matrix as a positive response. Students that indicate use of TheFacebook but aren’t found in the service receive are marked with a negative response in each field in the disclosure matrix. Figure 2 shows the insight into the metrics of identity disclosure in a SNC. Students were asked to react to a number of statements regarding identity information disclosure in SNC’s. From an outsider’s perspective, some of the information is very interesting; relationship status, location information, and political views are just a few of the many identity information elements that are disclosed in SNC’s. Figure 3 shows the responses on a sclae of 1 to 5 with 1 reflecting a level of strong disagreement with the statement, and 5 reflecting a level of strong agreement with the statement.
A large number of students share particularly personal information online. If a comparison is to be made between the trends observed in Figure 1, with the opinions students present in Figure 3, it strongly suggests that there is a disconnect between the value of traditional identity information (Name, SSN) and the new types identity information being disclosed (photo, political views, sexual orientation) in SNC’s. This disconnect identifies the need for a new discussion of identity information protection on campus, one that is effectively holistic and SNC-aware.
The authors report a number of limitations of the pilot study
- sample size
- characteristics of survey respondents
- lexical differences between SNC’s
- the effective, but ad-hoc nature of being an outside analyst of SNC’s.