Privacy Paradox

Sep 15, 2014

When the topic of online privacy comes up, some people say, “get over it’ it’s a thing of the past.  Others say, not so fast; there are ways to protect what privacy you have left on line. 

Take the latest iPhone coming out with all its new features.  New operating systems mean new privacy settings to be selected, some easily do-able and others harder to find or figure out.

"When we went from – IOS 6 -7 with Apple, there were some positives.  Apple actually created a tab called privacy but then they added some settings so that at least made it clear there are some settings regarding privacy," said France Berlanger, Professor of Accounting and Information Systems at Virginia Tech has been studying privacy for the last decade. "But then they added some settings that weren’t there before, turned them on by default and never told anybody."

She calls this the privacy paradox.  The difference between what people say and what they actually do to preserve privacy on their cell phones.  "It changes SO fast Even us, who are involved in  this and it’s hard for me to keep up with all the changes to the privacy settings and rules that are out there."

Berlanger says it’s about trade-offs for example, she herself will give her location information when she wants to use the GPS app on her phone to get where she needs to go; a concession for a reward.  But she says, most people still don't know that cell phone photos come with a location stamp. 

It’s not hard for someone to track your exact location if you post the photo online, without disabling   location stamp. But because she knows people like to use APPS on their phones, Berlanger and a team of researchers created one that walks users through all the wondrous ways they can control their phones’ privacy settings.  It’s still in beta, not available to the public yet, but will attempt to help preserve what’s left of online privacy.