Northeastern University professor Alan Mislove, whose research focuses on how people interact in the virtual world, recently discussed social networking's future and its impact on privacy. Mislove says that many patterns of human interaction in the offline world are mirrored on social networking sites such as Facebook. He also says that Facebook's recent privacy changes would have had a bigger impact if they had focused on the default settings. Since most people do not change the default privacy settings, much of their activity on Facebook remains open to any Internet user.
However, Mislove says that if users begin to restrict access to their information, gathering data from social networking sites will become problematic for researchers. He notes that such data could help to verify or invalidate theories in fields such as sociology, psychology, political science, and anthropology.
Mislove also says that government regulation of social networking sites may be necessary because Facebook has become the largest social network with more than 400 million users, which makes it a near monopoly and results in a lack of competition that does not allow the market to find the right stance on user privacy.
From Northeastern University News
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