Why People are Careless with Web Privacy

Why is it that people experience the “Jerry Springer Effect” on the web (i.e., the need to blab intimate secrets and private information to the world)?

Harvard Business School took on the challenge of trying to explain the almost uncontrollable need that people have to give constant updates on their status and reveal personal data on social media sites.

Their conclusion was that people are illogical and careless with their privacy in situations where privacy should be protected the most such as casual websites like Facebook.

However in situations such as professional websites that are seeking information, people are more guarded.

It seems that the difference between casual websites and professional websites is that the very nature of a professional-looking website acts as a cue to people to become guarded with their personal information.

When it comes to professional websites, people seem to say to themselves, “They must be using this information for some reason, otherwise they wouldn’t be asking for it.”  Also, the presence of statements alerting people to the fact that information will be kept private is another turnoff to disclosure.

The result is that people don’t think of privacy issues unless reminded to do so as often done on professional websites.

Additionally, the herd mentality of tell-all information offers an explanation as to why people are airing their “dirty laundry” – Everyone is doing it, so why not me.

In fact, it has gotten to the point that users of sites like Facebook are actually becoming suspicious of the people who don’t tell-all.

HR POINTER: This counterintuitive thought process of people is probably most useful to marketing firms that want to gather information from the public.

While these firms know the need to protect privacy, the mere act of designing a professional-looking website with all the privacy related disclosures will actually discourage the receipt of information that they are seeking.

Therefore, if these marketing firms really want to get information, it seems that the creation of a website which is more casual and less professional, makes no reference to privacy, and shows the oversharing of information by others will be “just the ticket” for securing the data.

These findings are also frightening when it comes to unethical firms and their efforts to gather privacy data.

Is this an upside down world or what?

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