In an article for the Guardian, security expert Bruce Schneier writes about “privacy salience,” which shows that “reassuring people about privacy makes them more, not less, concerned” about their personal data.
Leslie John, Alessandro Acquisti, and George Loewenstein – all at Carnegie Mellon University – demonstrated this in a series of clever experiments. In one, subjects completed an online survey consisting of a series of questions about their academic behaviour – “Have you ever cheated on an exam?” for example. Half of the subjects were first required to sign a consent warning – designed to make privacy concerns more salient – while the other half did not. Also, subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a privacy confidentiality assurance, or no such assurance. When the privacy concern was made salient (through the consent warning), people reacted negatively to the subsequent confidentiality assurance and were less likely to reveal personal information. […]
Privacy salience does a lot to explain social networking sites and their attitudes towards privacy. From a business perspective, social networking sites don’t want their members to exercise their privacy rights very much. They want members to be comfortable disclosing a lot of data about themselves.
Joseph Bonneau and Soeren Preibusch of Cambridge University have been studying privacy on 45 popular social networking sites around the world. (You may not have realised that there are 45 popular social networking sites around the world.) They found that privacy settings were often confusing and hard to access; Facebook, with its 61 privacy settings, is the worst. […]
But their most interesting finding was that sites consistently hide any mentions of privacy.