After just finishing a travelogue about privacy on Facebook, I’ve been thinking a lot about anonymity on the internet. Usually, we associate anonymous internet users with people who are, for lack of a more eloquent word, “creeping.” We want our privacy, but at the same time we feel we have the right to know who everyone else is–because if someone wont reveal himself, he must be a creep. There are a few places on the internet however, where people respect and support each other, despite anonymity.

For this travelogue, I want to explore confessional websites like Confessions4U and Post Secret to see how people use the internet as a place to speak freely about personal things. Twitter updates, Facebook statues, and blogs can’t compare in what people are willing to say on these confessional sites. The travelogue would feature research about how these sites were started and how they have affected their users.   Read the rest of this entry »

There may have not been Facebook in the 1970s, but the human concern for privacy is timeless. In 1974, Columbia University professor Alan Westin conducted surveys about privacy and concluded with the result that most participants were privacy fundamentalists (those with high concerns) or privacy pragmatists (those with medium concerns). Now, put internet in the picture. Privacy and the internet don’t really go hand in hand. People will tell you cautionary tales about that – “once it’s on the internet…!” Yup, you’ve heard the horror stories. No, really, if you don’t want to share certain information, DON’T SHARE IT.

As you may have noticed, Facebook constantly changes its privacy policy. But what exactly are some of the changes? It seems that when a layout change occurs, people pay attention and give their time of day to explore the new settings, but notifications about new privacy policies aren’t given too much thought. When Facebook started out, your information was viewable by friends and people in your network (such as a school network).We observed the transformations across the years on this timeline. Facebook started in 2005 with the policy that “No personal information that you submit to The Facebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.” Five years later (by April 2010), it’s become “When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. …” and ended on the note that “If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.” There goes your privacy! Read the rest of this entry »

Legions of the Underground will do little to alter the existing conditions and much to endanger the rights of hackers around the world. Declaring ‘war’ against the country is the most irresponsible thing a hacker group could do. This has nothing to do with hacktivism or hacker ethics and is nothing a hacker could be proud of.
- 2600, the Chaos Computer Club, L0pht, Heavy Industries, Phrack, Toxyn, Cult of the Dead Cow, Pulhas, and !Hispahack (1999)

We quickly discovered while studying hacktivism that a coherent and consistent definition is an enigma. Maybe this is a reflection of the decentralized and deeply individualized medium that plays host to it, or maybe it’s due to its sheer newness. In our research, we were able to identify two major motivations in work that self-identifies as hacktivism: the values of activism and street protest and the ethics dominant in hacker culture. In their book Hactivism and Cyberwars: Rebels with a Cause?, Tim Jordan and Paul Taylor identify these two strains as mass action hacktivism and digitally correct hacktivism, respectively. We will explore this terminology further in later sections, but it is important to note that Jordan and Taylor base their distinction on the hacktivist’s relationship to an inherently disembodied cyberspace. In their view, digitally correct hacktivists embrace this feature of cyberspace, whereas mass action hacktivists counter it by attempting to populate this space with embodied agents. To be clear, the two aren’t meant to be hard and fast divisions, nor could they be. In fact, most hacktivist activity could be argued to demonstrate elements of both. However, these categories do provide a useful analytical framework for examining hacktivist actions.

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Privacy and the internet don’t really go hand in hand. People will tell you cautionary tales about that – “once it’s on the internet…!” Yup, you’ve heard the horror stories.

As you may have noticed, Facebook constantly changes its privacy policy. But what exactly are some of the changes? It seems that when a layout change occurs, people pay attention and give their time of day to explore the new settings, but notifications about new privacy policies aren’t given too much thought. When Facebook started out, your information was viewable by friends and people in your network (such as a school network). We observed the transformations across the years on this timeline. Facebook started in 2005 with the policy that “No personal information that you submit to The Facebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.” Five years later (by April 2010), it’s become “When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. …” and ended on the note that “If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.” Oof, there goes your privacy!

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Every time Facebook changes the layout of profiles or edits the way the newsfeed works, users get up in arms. People do not like change, especially when it comes to their favorite social networking site. They take to their pages with fury to yell at Mark Zuckerburg and the rest of the Facebook team to leave Facebook the way it is. When Facebook updates its privacy policies and offers users new steps to secure their pages, no one comments and many ignore the window explaining the changes that pops up after they log in. A few years ago, privacy notifications elicited more a reaction. When social networking first became a phenomenon with sites like Myspace and Livejournal, the media was constantly discussing the issue of how people’s privacy was now at risk. Users did not trust social networking sites to protect their identities, and so were cautious and constantly warning each other with horror stories of Myspace pages gone awry. With the development of Facebook however, public opinion about social networking security seems to be changing. Read the rest of this entry »

With the constant inundation of various social media sites, it seems near impossible to keep up with the latest trends. One website that has gained popularity throughout the past year has been Formspring, a question-and-answer-based social website. Formspring was launched in November of 2009 initially by Formstack , an online form builder that allows users to create surveys, but as a result of the website’s success, Formspring.me became its own separate company in January of 2010. Formspring emphasizes a facet of the internet that very few other social websites exploit–anonymity. Most social websites such as Facebook take pride in obtaining as much information about you as possible and publicizing it. Formspring, on the other hand, is focused around the lack of knowledge of its users. In an attempt to further examine the social phenomenon that Formspring poses, I created my very own Formspring account as well as a survey for Formspring users. To further my research in a more factually grounded manner, I conducted brief interviews with a Formspring administrator, in addition to three Formspring users of various ages-middle school, high school, and college. Through my research, I examined the asymmetrical social interaction that Formspring has created between users and how Formspring has aided in changing social behavior and culture.

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To many people, Foursquare simply is the childhood game they played with their friends in the playground. For other, Foursquare is a way to stay connected with their friends and to learn more about the city they are in. Foursquare is a location based application that aims to make cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. Users check-in to venues using smartphone application, mobile web or text messaging. Their check-in location is shared with friends and each check-in awards the user points and sometimes “badges”. There are many types of badges and some badges require users to check-in to a venue a certain amount of time. Foursquare allows users to bookmark information about places that they want to visit, to read friend’s suggestions about the venue and also to see other user’s suggestions about nearby places . Businesses and brands utilize the Foursquare application to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences. Businesses owners are able to use the information and statistics provided by Foursquare to see who comes through their store and better target their marketing and advertising towards the right demographic.
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For those that have no clue what Foursquare is, it is a location based application that aims to make cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. Users check-in to venues using smartphone application, mobile web or text messaging. Their check-in location is shared with friends and each check-in awards the user points and sometimes “badges”. Foursquare allows users to bookmark information about places that they want to visit and relevant suggestions about nearby places. Businesses and brands utilize the Foursquare application to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences. Businesses owners are able to use the information and statistics provided by Foursquare to see who comes through their store.

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Recently location based applications like Foursquare and Facebook Places have been gaining popularity especially among smartphone users. The idea that people are willing to share their location to the world at any given time raised huge privacy issue. According to Foursquare, as of December 2010 there are over 5 million Foursquare users worldwide. That means about 5 million people are sharing to the world where they are at any given moment, and they don’t really mind who sees it. It used to be people would just go to a store and purchase whatever they like, but now, some people go to the store and check in to the place on their mobile phone. What’s the reason for people to feel the need to check in to places? To feel connected by telling people where they are? So people can find them? I definitely remembered thinking application like Foursquare will let stalker find me easier, but now I am an active user on Foursquare.

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