What a Tangled Web We Weave: Lying Backfires in Location-Sharing Social Media

“Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” – Sir Walter Scott

Have you ever had to deal with the aftermath of someone posting a picture of you doing something that someone wasn’t supposed to know about? Have you ever had to make up a story to smooth things over? For some, this might be a common occurrence. Others may feel they have nothing to hide. Still others might just bypass tricky situations by staying away from social media altogether.

In our upcoming talk and paper, we explore the role of lying in location-sharing social media. Lying can be defined as an act that “deliberately seeks to create a false belief” [Hancock et al. CHI 2009]. It can come in many forms including outright lies, ambiguity, or nondisclosure. Some researchers focus on how everyday lies are trivial and an important part of maintaining healthy relationships and self-image. Others point out how those with a disposition to lie can have higher levels of anxiety, stress, and even physiological problems such as lower survival rates for some diseases.

Through qualitative interviews, we noticed that some people tended to resort to lying as a privacy management tactic. They were not concerned about sharing location because they could cover it up with a lie. Others realized that their offline lie could be unraveled by location-sharing and so were privacy sensitive about using location-sharing social media. So we decided to test whether one’s propensity to lie affects their level of privacy concern. Drawing on our previously published model (that shows many privacy concerns throughout the location-sharing and social media literature are actually just symptoms of a higher-level concern, relationship boundary preservation), we test whether Propensity to Lie affects individual privacy concerns as well as the higher-level boundary preservation concern (BPC). Through a nationwide survey (N=1532) and split test analysis, we tested and verified the model and show that we may want to take heed of Sir Walter Scott’s admonition

We hope our paper gives pause to designers to think about the values that are affected or encouraged by technology. Whether they plan for it or not, technology does interplay with our values.

Read the full paper: What a Tangled Web We Weave: Lying Backfires in Location-Sharing Social Media or attend the talk at CSCW on Monday at 2:30.

Xinru Page, Bart Knijnenburg, Alfred Kobsa (University of California, Irvine)

About the author


I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Informatics Department of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. My advisor is Alfred Kobsa and I study Privacy and Location-Sharing Social Media. My general interests are in the areas of Social Informatics, Human-Computer Interaction, Computer-Mediated Communication and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work.

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