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The Dark Side of Networks

In our everyday interactions, it is fairly easy to look at our personal network and determine the positive and negative relationships. For the average person, the negative relations do not have detrimental impacts. Perhaps they stole the other’s date, their favorite sports teams are rivals or they simply do not have compatible personalities. We worry about those negative contacts interfering with our life, causing some strife in our social life, but nothing too drastic. But for those with great power and wealth, such as the CEO of Dell Computers, Michael Dell, these negative relations can have substantial, even lethal, effects on his life and that of his family. It is for this very reason that he allots $2.7 million a year to a security operation to protect him and his loved ones. However, a few weeks ago, his daughter nearly undermined all of the efforts due to ignorance of the dangers of unknown networking. The dangers did not come from exposing intimate details of her family plans and locations to friends, but to those she did not even know she was connected with.

So far, all of the network systems we have discussed in class have been about the connections we acknowledge, whether they are positive or negative. On Facebook, you choose to become friends with someone and allow them access to your information. But what about those who are connected to you without you being aware? In today’s society, hacking access to personal information and accounts runs rampant and the children of powerful figures are perfect targets. Their desire to share their privileged lives with friends often blinds them to the possible negative effects of their actions. Michael Dell’s daughter, Alexa, was just like every other teen, tweeting of her daily activities and exciting events. However, the GPS stamps on her posts, and posts revealing information on future plans put her family in possible jeopardy, undoing all that the security operation had done to keep their whereabouts disclosed.

In the case of Alexa, the only nodes she concerned about interacting with were those that she knew of, which were her friends. This also brings in the topic of game theory. Her decision to post about her life was so she could keep her friends updated on what she was doing. On one hand, she could keep this information to herself, with no social benefits to be had since no one else would know, so a payoff of 0. On the other hand, if she shared, she would receive the praise from friends about how lucky she is to have that lifestyle, a positive payoff. However, if the consequences of information concerning the family’s location being discovered by the wrong people were taken into account, the game gets more complicated. Most people would agree that the positive payoff of praise and envy from friends does not outweigh the negative payoff of endangering your family’s safety. So, the game changes. Instead of choosing between no payoff for not posting and a positive payoff for posting, she must take into account the scenario if there are indeed malevolent observers, where there is a 0 payoff for not posting and a negative payoff for posting. Even the payoff of the observers can be represented, a positive payoff meaning they got what they were trying to discover, and a 0 for not finding any useful information. As evident from the table below, there is no dominant strategy for Alexa to make. But taking into account the fact that her father is wealthy, it is almost certain that there are people after his fortune. The game changes based on what factors are taken into account. In essence, whenever we try to make a decision, instead of only considering the obvious factors, like Alexa did, it is best to consider all of the possible hidden factors, such as those who may be out to get her father’s fortune. Check out the link below for all the details of the story.

No Malevolent Hidden Observers Malevolent Hidden Observers
Post Details                       +, 0                      -,+
Do Not Post Details                        0,0                      0,0




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