Sunday, June 23, 2013

Where is the Online Privacy in Reviewing Sites?

     Nowadays a lot of online review sites are increasing; the new challenge lies on the privacy of the users.  Sites that have reviews are like Yelp or Tripadvisor, have become a great source of information for people that want to try a new restaurant or even are planning a trip.  The information posted in these sites become public, i.e. for everyone to see and read, and in some cases the users disclose “private” information – like relationships, family, etc.

     By doing reviews, customers start inadvertently disclosing private information in their reviews.  Either the customer specifies that they went to a place with family or to celebrate a particular event of their lives or even that they went on a particular date, etc.  To a certain point customers disclose their experience exchanges with the establishments and write everything on a review, leaving this information available for anyone that will search for it.  These reviews are linked to the customers directly, therefore the customer becomes exposed to the establishment or to the world.  There have been cases in which the establishments have attacked these customers via email and even via telephone, especially when the review has been a bad one.  Once the information is out there in the world wide web there is no way of retrieving it or even blocking it.  Once the information is out there, it’s out there for everyone to see.  Where is the online privacy for the users of these sites?  Seems that these sites don't care about online privacy, they just want whatever type of information for their benefit.

     Sites like Yelp have their members put their first names and the first initial of their last name on their profile.  Plus the site also mentions that when the member makes its profile more “credible” meaning putting a real picture of you will make the account a more “real” one.  So much for online privacy, there is no privacy here.  I think that to a point these sites are trying to make the information more credible when the site knows that when they are linked to a real name person and make that person accountable for the information.

     Yelp motto is: Real Reviews, Real People.  Have sites become revealers of who the customers are and make customers feel that the only way to express themselves is by showing their identity?  and make their customers feel they are exposed?  Has society come to a point in which people have to reveal they identities to make their opinions to be considered in the real world?  What will be next?

Article related:

Miyazki, Anthony.  Is "Online Privacy" the Ultimate Oxymoron?


  1. Very interesting points! I do see the emphasis on making sure realness from a real person is included in online postings. I had a friend who posted a negative online review on a restaurant experience, which was then removed, and they were able to contact her via phone (using the personal information she provided on her profile) to talk to her about her experience. She was horrified that it was that easy to track her down. Since then, she has cut down her "presence" online. Something to think about in a world where we are "connected". While she didn't think anyone was even paying attention to what she had to say, someone obviously was!

  2. In the case of online rating websites, you have to realize that when you post something it will be read. I think this is the reason why people even post on these websites at all (whether it be to rave or rant about the business they visited) So are they enabled to their privacy? I know that Yelp and TripAdvisor don't share your personal information with third parties (they state it clearly in their privacy policy) So if I give a business a bad review, I may be at risk of them writing a message back to me, but I know im not at risk of them showing up at my house or even calling me directly.

  3. Sites should have an option (some already do) allowing those who share their comments and ratings to share with the public any and all private information. For those who wish not to share any private information, the site should internally be able to identify if the person is real. This will allow users to view real postings and reviews, and will limit the number of fake postings and reviews (for examples, a competitor trashing their top competing business, or the manager of a horrible business spreading good reviews).