According to tech pundits, location-based apps are "the next big thing." Location based apps like Gowalla and Foursquare, which allow you to "check in" to locations and venues via your mobile device, and share with your friends or the world at large, are all the rage. Other apps share even more personal information, such as your spending habits. Blippy, for example, lets other people see and discuss what you’re buying, after you enter in credit card information and other types of accounts. How comfortable do YOU feel with the new round of social media apps?
Ask this question to ten people, and you could get ten different answers, ranging from "I put my whole life out there," to "I won’t touch social media sites with a ten foot pole," to everything in between. What characteristics drive those views? Here are a few possibilities.
Is age the primary driving factor behind privacy concerns? It does seem that younger internet users have no qualms about exposing their lives to the world. Similarly, it seems like those in my age-bracket (early 40s), or older, are much less likely to expose personal information. Is it really age, though, or other factors that often correlate with age, such as wisdom, or perhaps lack of tech knowledge?
There are certainly many tech-savvy people in almost every age bracket. But there does seem to be a higher concentration of "techiness" in younger circles. As with much in life, lack of familiarity can breed distrust, so those who don’t know how some of these sites work may be less prone to share information on them.
Some people are dependent on social media because of their occupations. Other individuals don’t need/use social media at all in their line of work. In fact, in some professions it is taboo to use certain types of social media. In my profession (law), it took quite a bit for me to feel comfortable exposing my life, even to the limited extent that I do.
When I discussed this issue with Bobby here at 40Tech (he is Canadian), he suggested that "being an American might have something to do with increased privacy concerns on your end as well." He pointed our that there are more people in the U.S than in Canada, so there are more people who actually could do you harm by accessing your personal information. Even if those concerns would turn out to be unfounded, he pointed out that the mainstream media thrives on scare tactics. We may know better, but with a large percentage of people still new to the internet, there are many users who are easily swayed by sensational stories of horror.
Is it possible that some folks are just more wary than others? Just like some individuals drive more deliberately than others, could it be that some internet users are similarly cautious, due to the same type of personality trait? A site like PleaseRobMe would only reinforce those fears. PleaseRobMe was basically a Twitter search for Foursquare check-ins, to show which Twitter users were away from home. The site founders recently disabled that functionality, claiming that they had proven their point.
None or all of the above
Perhaps there is no single defining characteristic that determines how comfortable someone is with sharing his or her life on the internet. Perhaps there aren’t even a few predominant defining characteristics, but instead, as with much in life, each person is different, and there are a multitude of reasons, none of which could be said to be primary.
How much information do you share on the internet? Is your Facebook profile public? Do you share personal details on Twitter and Facebook? What are your views on sharing your personal information through sites like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Blippy? Let us know in the comments.