An interesting topic to think about, especially when it comes to health issues and people with an illness that may be tracked via their smartphone or online social media presence in ways that they had not thought of nor would they have wanted to consent to.
'I saw you were online': How online status indicators shape our behavior
April 13, 2020
University of Washington
After surveying smartphone users, researchers found that many people misunderstand online status indicators but still carefully shape their behavior to control how they are displayed to others.
Researchers at the University of Washington wanted to know if people recognize that they are sharing this information and whether these indicators change how people behave online.
After surveying smartphone users, the team found that many people misunderstand online status indicators but still carefully shape their behavior to control how they are displayed to others. More than half of the participants reported that they had suspected that someone had noticed their status.
Meanwhile, over half reported logging on to an app just to check someone else's status. And 43% of participants discussed changing their settings or behavior because they were trying to avoid one specific person.
These results will be published in the Proceedings of the 2020 ACM CHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
"Online status indicators are an unusual mechanism for broadcasting information about yourself to other people," said senior author Alexis Hiniker, an assistant professor in the UW Information School. "When people share information by posting or liking something, the user is in control of that broadcast. But online status indicators are sharing information without taking explicit direction from the user. We believe our results are especially intriguing in light of the coronavirus pandemic: With people's social lives completely online, what is the role of online status indicators?"
People need to be aware of everything they are sharing about themselves online, the researchers said. . .
How smartphone apps can help 'contact trace' the new coronavirus
The process known as “contact tracing,” which is used to control the spread of infectious diseases, was boosted last week when the top two smartphone software makers, Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O), said they were collaborating on apps that can identify people who have crossed paths with a contagious patient and alert them.
HOW CAN MOBILE PHONES HELP COMBAT THE NEW CORONAVIRUS?
Smartphones and some less-sophisticated mobile phones keep track of their location via cell-tower signals, Wi-Fi signals and the satellite-based global positioning system, known as GPS. Smartphones also use so-called Bluetooth technology to connect with nearby devices.
The location data can be used to monitor whether people, either individually or in aggregate, are obeying orders to stay inside their homes. It can also be used for contact tracing: determining whether people have been in contact with others who have the virus, so they can get tested or quarantined.
Smartphones can also be used to take surveys of people about their health via messaging, record their health histories via various forms of data entry and even produce a health “score” based on a combination of location information and health data.
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