Today I’m talking to Amy Tilbrook all about why lying to Starbucks is good but lying to Facebook is bad.

To hear more from Amy, join her for her show ‘When Is Lying Good?’ on the 23rd August at the New Town Theatre.

Do you lie?

All the time, Starbucks has never had my real name to put on a coffee cup.

Is lying to your mum bad?

Morally bad, or ineffective? Either way – lying to my mum is definitely bad for your health – she always knows.

Is lying to the government bad?

Yes – in both contexts.

Is lying about yourself to Facebook, or online more generally, bad?

Lets leave aside legal and ethical arguments for now.  In some circumstances lying or omitting details is way to avoid the junk mail or protect your privacy, basically a way to avoid your data being used against you.

This sounds good in principle, a few white lies don’t hurt right? However, often it is not too difficult to link supposedly different data, and fake information could have wider implications for the rest of us.

What are the consequences of lying on things which seem unimportant like Facebook?

Apart from the immediate consequences of breaking terms and conditions of service, it’s time we thought about what happens to the information we write down about ourselves. Researchers, companies and governments use data about people all the time – to make advances in healthcare, to decide policy on education and services, and for their own gain. It’s scary, but if they’re making decisions based on false evidence, then it goes a lot further than having a voucher for your least preferred brand of beans.

Isn’t lying the best way to protect yourself- both from strangers and from companies using your data?

The best way would be to never give any data out about yourself at all, but you would find it fairly difficult to navigate the world. As ever, it depends on why and how you do something. It is one method of avoiding people taking your identity or being able to search for you by name, but if you give real opinions anyway it’s not going to stop targeted advertising finding it’s way to you. Lying by fudging your details might feel like gaming the system, but it isn’t as effective at hiding people as you might think – find out more on 23rd August.