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I know what you did last weekend (and the weekend before)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
posted by Douglas Keene

social media graphicSocial media involvement has become a fact of life. We have profiles on-line with connections to friends, family, colleagues, and people who really are more strangers than friends. While there have been concerns expressed about the potential for privacy intrusion in all this publicly, until now there have only been suppositions. Recently though, a student research project at MIT, Project ‘Gaydar’ was used to identify sexual orientation of students through Facebook ‘friends’. (The comments on this article are an interesting read as well) Other studies (described in the same Boston Globe article) predicted political affiliation, where people lived, their gender, their dog’s breed and whether someone was likely to be a spammer.

Tracking information like this isn’t exactly new. Following up on the Boston Globe story, Mind Hacks describes ‘traffic analysis’ in law enforcement. This is a pre-internet technique used to identify social networks through phone call patterns. Both the Project ‘Gaydar’ work and ‘traffic analysis’ rely on the principle of ‘homophily’—or ‘birds of a feather flock together’. We connect with people who are like us and therefore who are friends are may reveal more than we are intentionally choosing to disclose.

Two tips:

Watch what you do and say on social network sites. What you do on the internet will essentially live forever.  What is clever and witty in context can haunt you forever as a sound-byte.

Pay attention to what jurors do and say on the internet. Blogs, social networks, discussion forums, online profiles—all these resources are being used by potential employers and schools to learn more about their applicants. Use them to learn about jurors’ beliefs and biases (either for or against your particular case).

    In other words, be careful and be strategic.

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