4/7/10 Reading Thoughts

I enjoyed the readings for today about social networking sites, in particular the two about FriendFeed. I wasn’t, however, overly impressed by the survey of adult social networking site users and I will briefly explain why.

Part of the problem was the use of questions like this one:

“How easy do you think it would be for someone to find out who you are from your profile on a social networking web site?”

What exactly does this question mean? In what context is this person trying to get information about me? Does this person have my name and now wants to learn other things about me, or do they have information about me and want my name? How can you claim that these answers demonstrate anything important about the issue of privacy when it isn’t at all clear what is being asked? This was probably the worst question I found in the survey, but it wasn’t the only one that I took issue with.

I think the other part of my issue with the survey comes from knowing that this information could potentially be gathered directly by the sites themselves, rather than relying on the more subjective strategy of phone questionnaires. The combination of vaguely worded or leading questions and answer choices, and the common issue of dishonest responses gives the information in the survey results less validity, in my mind, than actual use statistics similar to those gathered by Google. That said, the survey is obviously still effective in demonstrating the rise of SNS use among adults, which was arguably its main objective. I also don’t know why sites like Facebook would want to release their user information, so I should probably stop hoping.

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