Just something that came up from looking at the results of my recent survey on privacy in location-based systems. I found that the general pattern of lying regularity in order of most regular to least regular is acquaintances, family, then friends. This result is hardly unexpected, as the questionnaire was primarily taken by university students, but what can we learn from this?
I propose that it is worth placing some effort into designing systems that enable us to lie, if we so wish to. When we talk about location tracking being a social utility – to help people coordinate, keep in touch and support serendipitous meetings – we should not forget what technology allows us to do already. The parents of a student might call them to ask them what they’re up to, and if a mobile phone allows them to lie, so should an application supporting location-based information too.
One solution would be to close the user group, and limit allowing people to gain an insight of your activities and/or location to people you allow (i.e. build up a virtual social network of trust). This would limit the system, as we often want – and indeed, need to – inform our loved ones back at home of our safety and well-being.
So, a design problem here – how do we design a system to support the fluidly changing preferences to lying that we so love to have control over in existing communication methods? Another problem that I want to leave you with, that was inspired by Vince is that we must be careful of the interface affordances offered to people that enable lying. We can easily get carried away with prompts asking them if they want to lie, but this may actually encourage people to lie more often.