She Studies How Valuable the Information Facebook has on You Is
Should you 'like' everything you feel like liking on Facebook, or hold back? It depends, says associate professor in economics, Eeva Mauring.
“I am interested in how information affects markets. Information as in what we convey through actions and what we say. We convey certain things through social media, about our interests and other people. Companies can see what you like, who you follow, what you have searched for, what you click on. This information is easy to generate and possible to disseminate at virtually no cost”, says Eeva Mauring, associate professor at the Department of Economics, at the University of Bergen.
Like many academics, Eeva Mauring has lived and studied in a variety of different places. She grew up in Estonia, but has also lived in Latvia, Finland, England, Austria, and for the past few years: Bergen, Norway.
“Bergen was a good place for me to do the kind of research I am interested in. The Norwegian promise of life work balance was also alluring,” she says.
Uses Game Theory
In her research Mauring focuses on microeconomic theory, industrial organization and information economics. She builds and solves theoretical model using the tools of so-called “game theory”. The best analogy for a simplified math model is a map, according to Mauring.
“A map is a representation of reality, but it shows very little detail. It may show streets but not trees for instance – a lot of things are abstracted. All the same, the map is useful. It can tell us how to get from one place to another. In the same way, economic models abstract from details. The models can say something about particular things, about certain effects, but they don’t give a realistic picture of all the details in the world,” she says.
Difficult to Retract Information
One question Mauring is particularly interested in these days is whether it is a good thing or not to reveal a lot about yourself and your preferences online, for example, on Facebook.
“Should you ‘like’ everything you want to ‘like’, or not? I think the answer is that it depends on whether and which firms are using this type of information. It may be not such a negative thing for individuals to reveal this kind of information if there are many firms competing in a particular field. But if there is only one firm in an area, one should perhaps be more careful,” she says.
Once you have revealed something about yourself on the internet, it is difficult to retract it, according to Mauring.
“You cannot know where it ends up, and even if you ask Google to remove this information, firms may already have downloaded it,” she says.