I’m working on NoTube as part of the BBC team, and together with Lora from VU, I’m looking into various potential privacy issues. In particular, as someone with a background in user experience, I’m interested to find out how willing people are to share information online about what they *actually* watch on TV – i.e. the type of attention data that can be counted with a Beancounter.
For example: you’ve spent years carefully cultivating and managing an online persona which reflects you in the best light – and you choose to post and tweet only about TV programmes which reinforce this persona. Given all this effort, do you really want your online contacts/friends to know that you’re also a secret fan of several ‘trashy’ TV shows – or this information that you’d rather keep to yourself?
On the other hand, how curious would you be to find out what your friends are watching (with their permission of course)? How about if you could get programme recommendations based on their tastes and preferences, combined with yours? For example, if you discovered that ten of your friends watched a programme about a subject you’re interested in that you hadn’t, might that influence you to watch it too? Yes? But how might your friends feel about sharing their TV viewing data with you?
Is what you choose to watch on TV in the privacy of your own sitting room at the end of a long day more intimately personal somehow than, say, the music you listen to, the DVDs you rent or the books you buy? And, if so, might this be because we tend to revert to ‘couch potato’ mode when we’re feeling tired and bored and need passive entertainment – when we want to indulge in the guilty pleasures of less highbrow content than we might pursue in other (more public) contexts?
The ability to share information online about programmes you’ve watched is already being made possible by experimental services such as 4iP’s Test Tube Telly and Whomwah’s twitter bot which sends details about what you are listening to and watching to the @radioandtvbot account on Twitter. Similarly Boxee allows you to match up your feed output to a twitter stream.
Do people have reservations about sharing this kind of data? If so, would the trade-off of potentially interesting programme recommendations based on friends’ viewing behaviours be worth any perceived risk of exposure? These are some questions I hope to answer during the course of this project.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Please leave any comments on the blog.