Geotagging in social media : exploring the privacy paradox

University essay from Högskolan i Borås/Akademin för bibliotek, information, pedagogik och IT; Högskolan i Borås/Akademin för bibliotek, information, pedagogik och IT

Abstract: Increasingly, online social media networks allow users to use geotagging. This method of adding location data to various content shared in real time has introduced privacy related issues and threats to the users of such networks. Previous research present opposing findings on whether users actually care about their location privacy or not, and it has also been shown that users often display a behaviour inconsistent with their concerns. When asked, users tend to report high privacy concerns, but in contrast, they will then not let their privacy concerns affect or limit their behaviour online; the privacy paradox is a description of this dichotomy. The problem, however, is not only that location privacy seems to be a paradoxical issue; the sharing of location data provides users with new possibilities that can potentially have negative consequences for them, such as someone else being able to identify one’s identity, home location, habits or other sensitive information. Social media network users communicate that a part of this is due to the lack of control over which information they share, with whom and where.This study employs a qualitative method, using unstructured interviews in a pre-study and a self-completion questionnaire. The purpose of the study is to examine and gain a better understanding of how the privacy paradox can help to better explain users’ location data disclosure preferences in the context of social media networking, and to help social media network developers in order to reduce privacy-related issues in social media networking applications with geotagging capabilities. The findings indicate that the paradox indeed is evident in user’s stated geotagging behaviour, and that users are slightly more worried about their location privacy than their overall online privacy. The conclusions offer a couple of different explanations for the paradox, and we argue that the contradiction of the paradox can be seen as a constant trade-off between benefits and risks of geotagging. We also give some examples of such advantages and disadvantages.

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