Privacy 2.0: Give a little, take a little

From a special report on social networking in the 28 January print edition of The Economist with more links to more stories available by looking atthestoryIf there is one thing that could halt the ascent of social networks, it is the vexed question of privacy. This is controversial because it goes right to the heart of the social-networking business model. In order to attract users, sites need to offer ways for members to restrict the information about themselves that gets shared with a wider public. Without effective controls people would be reluctant to sign up. But if a site allows members to keep too much of their information private, there will be less traffic that can be turned into profit through advertising and various other means, so the network’s business will suffer.”There is a tension here because these networking sites are based on the idea that people will share information about themselves,” says Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Institute for the Internet & American Life, a non-profit research group. “If people stop swapping content then the sites will fade away.” There is some evidence that people are starting to become more sophisticated about the way in which they manage their data, which could have longer-term implications for the networks’ growth.

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