Do you know who can see your Facebook posts?
With the introduction of social networks and our voluntary disclosure of private information, data privacy is increasingly becoming a bigger problem. Nevertheless, many Facebook users have low awareness of their own privacy vulnerabilities, which, according to students of the University of Regensburg in Germany, leads to social exclusion. Aiming to address this problem, the students created Friend Inspector, a web-based application that educates Facebook users on privacy awareness by projecting information from their accounts into a game-like experience.
The project targets young adults who, according to the project’s paper, may have their privacy violated when their posts are shared in a context different from the one originally intended for. The creators of the app want to reinforce that Facebook users maintain contextual integrity by analyzing if the people who can see their shared posts are part of their social sphere they actually intend to share with (i.e. family, coworkers, close friends, etc.) and help them change privacy settings accordingly.
“[…] it is difﬁcult for a SNS (social network site) user to simultaneously meet the expectations and respect varying social norms of conﬂicting social spheres. This might put the user at risk of offending one (or more) of these social spheres, ultimately leading to social exclusion.” (Cetto, A. et al, “Friend Inspector: A Serious Game to Enhance Privacy Awareness in Social Networks”, In Proc. of the 2nd International Workshop on Intelligent Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion (IDGEI), 2014)
The project wants to help people interact with Facebook’s privacy settings in a conducive and interactive learning environment that is personalized in a playful manner to test privacy awareness, and give feedback on what actions you can take to further protect yourself.
Here is how you play: you have to visit the Friend Inspector website, hit “Play” and sign in to the prompted Facebook page. Once logged in, the web application will start analyzing your account and preparing the game. The only requirement for it to work is that your account have at least seven non-public shared posts (pictures or status messages).
When the game starts, you are asked to choose the difficulty level, which translates into choosing if you want to include only posts with pictures, posts with messages, or both.
In Personalization phase (Item Battle), the game presents two shared posts of yours and asks which is considered more personal to you, for 10 rounds. After completing this, the game now knows what you consider to be private and moves to the next step.
In Find your Friends phase, you are presented with the shared posts you consider personal and asked which of the Facebook friends and random strangers can see the given post. You start with 10’000 points, lose 1’000 if you select someone incorrectly, and lose 200 points for every second passed.
In the final phase, Score and Feedback, the game summarizes the results and provides personalized recommendations that guide you through improving your privacy settings. Also, in your final score, the application includes extra points if your Facebook account includes Friend Lists and detracts points for publicly shared posts because of their potential harm to your privacy.
As mentioned in the paper, the gist is that as the player learns about his privacy through the game, she then comes back to improve her high score.
How aware are you of your own privacy in Facebook? Share with us in the comments.I think it is an interesting tool for anyone to check out, quickly assess how well they are aware of their Facebook privacy, and bridge the gap between perceived and actual visibility. This project is a great initiative to teach through a personalized game, meeting the goal of inductive learning by allowing players to experiment with the subject.