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    MIT Technology Review: Social Networks Keep Privacy in the Closet

    The MIT Technology Review reports on research about social networking sites and their privacy settings. The researchers noted that social networks get more economic value out of users who share a lot of data.

    Social-networking sites lead a double life. On one hand, they encourage users to share as much personal information as possible, making it easy to post photos, videos, notes, and links. But at the same time, these sites have to safeguard that information and limit how it is shared between users and beyond their own walls. Users are often dismayed when their information reaches unintended recipients, such as bosses, relatives, or other companies.

    This situation encourages social networks to bury the privacy settings that they build, according to research that will be presented later this month at the Eighth Workshop on the Economics of Information Security, in London, U.K. Social networks are under pressure from privacy-rights groups and activists to build in ways for users to control their information, the researchers say, but it’s also in their interest to keep those settings off users’ minds. […]

    To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers evaluated 45 social-networking sites from all over the world, looking at more than 200 criteria related to privacy policies and privacy controls. Although social-networking sites have often been criticized as a group for their privacy practices, the researchers say that they found a lot of variation in quality. Using criteria such as the amount of data collected during sign up, the default privacy settings, and whether information is routinely shared with third parties, the researchers judged Bebo, LinkedIn, and GaiaOnline to have the best privacy practices of all, and Badoo, CouchSurfing, and MyLife to have the weakest. 

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