thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Reputation Systems and the Social Function of Lying

Reputation systems are part of what I would call Web 3.0. They don't just connect people (like many web2.0 platforms do), but they also add some information on the semantic layer of the links. Examples are microformats like XFN or FOAF, self-managed platforms like claimID, or outsourcing and "let lawyers deal with this" services like Reputation Defender. And of course there are the built-in reputation systems in platforms like eBay or Amazon that allow users to rate others' payment or delivery morale.

Ok - long preface just to say that Alice Marwick at has started to write about reputation systems and their inherent problems. (She also provides a link to the Reputation Research Network with a long list of academic papers on the subject.)

My favourite quote, which really hits the mark:
We have a wide variety of social norms and social practices built up around avoiding being honest about our friends.
This reminds me of one the old classics of sociology. Georg Simmel wrote about the value of secrets for the functioning of modern and complex societies - exactly 100 years ago and still worth a read. And always a good counter-argument to the "nothing to hide"-statements against privacy that have become way too popular recently.


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