Tag Archives: freedom

Privacy Salience and Social Networking Sites

Privacy could become a competitive feature of social networking sites, suggests Bruce Schneier in an article that looks at the interesting topic of privacy salience: the suggestion that privacy reassurances make people more, not less, concerned.

Privacy salience does a lot to explain social networking sites and their attitudes towards privacy. From a business perspective, social networking sites don’t want their members to exercise their privacy rights very much. They want members to be comfortable disclosing a lot of data about themselves.

[…] Users care about privacy, but don’t really think about it day to day. The social networking sites don’t want to remind users about privacy, even if they talk about it positively, because any reminder will result in users remembering their privacy fears and becoming more cautious about sharing personal data. But the sites also need to reassure those “privacy fundamentalists” for whom privacy is always salient, so they have very strong pro-privacy rhetoric for those who take the time to search them out. The two different marketing messages are for two different audiences.

Prosperity, Freedom, Fertility

When it comes to reproduction, are individuals who strive only for personal gain—as Adam Smith stated in The Wealth of Nations—”led by an invisible hand […] to promote the public interest”?

In The Tragedy of the Commons, ecologist Garrett Hardin suggested not and called for further government intervention to help control rising populations.

Recent studies, however, are suggesting that the current laissez-faire approach to reproduction in developed and economically ‘free’ countries does lead to an optimal population. (As always, there are caveats.)

In 2002, Seth Norton, a business economics professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, published a remarkably interesting study on the inverse relationship between prosperity and fertility. Norton compared fertility rates of over 100 countries with their index rankings for economic freedom and another index for the rule of law. “Fertility rate is highest for those countries that have little economic freedom and little respect for the rule of law,” wrote Norton. “The relationship is a powerful one. Fertility rates are more than twice as high in countries with low levels of economic freedom and the rule of law compared to countries with high levels of those measures.”

Norton found that the fertility rate in countries that ranked low on economic freedom averaged 4.27 children per woman while countries with high economic freedom rankings had an average fertility rate of 1.82 children per woman. His results for the rule of law were similar; fertility rates in countries with low respect for the rule of law averaged 4.16 whereas countries with high respect for the rule of law had fertility rates averaging 1.55.

Education and Surveillance

After a school here in the UK installed a CCTV system in a classroom used for the teaching of an A-level politics class the students revolted; walking out only to return once they were reassured that the monitoring system was inactive and to be used solely as a teaching aid.

The students’ plight was eventually picked-up by The Guardian where two rather eloquent students put forth their views on education, surveillance, and the unnecessary combination of the two.

The truth is that we are whatever the generation before us has created. If you criticise us, we are your failures; and if you applaud us we are your successes, and we reflect the imperfections of society and of human life. If you want to reform the education system, if you want to raise education standards, then watching children every hour of every day isn’t the answer. The answer is to encourage students to learn by creating an environment in which they can express their ideas freely and without intimidation.

via Schneier

Talk to Strangers

In an article discussing collaborative spam filtering and the Tor project, Bruce Schneier offers some refreshing advice: telling children not to talk to strangers isn’t strictly the best advice:

When I was growing up, children were commonly taught: “don’t talk to strangers.” Strangers might be bad, we were told, so it’s prudent to steer clear of them.

And yet most people are honest, kind, and generous, especially when someone asks them for help. If a small child is in trouble, the smartest thing he can do is find a nice-looking stranger and talk to him.

These two pieces of advice may seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. The difference is that in the second instance, the child is choosing which stranger to talk to. Given that the overwhelming majority of people will help, the child is likely to get help if he chooses a random stranger. But if a stranger comes up to a child and talks to him or her, it’s not a random choice. It’s more likely, although still unlikely, that the stranger is up to no good.

I suppose it’s a form of the selection bias.

So do as @zambonini suggests, and head over to Omegle and talk to strangers!