Youth, Privacy, and Online Media
As you read this article, reflect on how our expectations of privacy have changed over the past few generations. After you read, take some time to think about the activities you engage in that could be subject to data collection. Does this bother you? What do you do to limit the data collected from your online activity? Write an essay of two or three paragraphs summarizing your thoughts.
The right to privacy is stipulated in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as numerous international and regional human rights treaties and conventions. The right to privacy essentially protects the integrity of the individual and his or her home, family, and correspondence. A common denominator for the different areas of privacy is access control: thus control over what others know about us; control over private decisions and actions; and control over a physical space. The right to privacy builds on the presumption that a zone of autonomy around the individual is central to individual freedom and self-determination: 'In order to behave in a self-determined fashion, we must in general believe and be able to presume that we are not being observed, eavesdropped on, deceived about what data is collected and shared with others, or about the presence of others, and about what those present know about us'. Fried argued that privacy is important because it renders possible important human relationships. Privacy provides "the necessary context for relationships which we would hardly be human if we had to do without the relationships of love, friendship and trust". The right to privacy applies to the off-line and online sphere equally . However, the individual's right to privacy has evolved alongside the structural transformation of the public sphere. Accordingly, the concept "online privacy" is often used to present the specific challenges and implications posed to the right to privacy by the Internet.
Individuals have a right to privacy not only in the private domain but also when acting in the public space, 'as a kind of private sphere which is inherent in the individual person and which accompanies the person when moving about'. Not least in the context of social media platforms it is important to bear the right to privacy in public spaces in mind. The right to privacy relates to individual control, and not necessarily to a private intimate realm.
The contemporary debate about online privacy typically portrays privacy as a good to be traded off against other goods, inspired by Westin's U.S.-based taxonomy. The taxonomy divides the population into the privacy unconcerned, the privacy pragmatics, and the privacy fundamentalists. Whereas privacy fundamentalists will only be satisfied with the highest and therefore unrealistic level of privacy protection, the privacy unconcerned pays little attention to the treatment of their personal information. The privacy pragmatics on the contrary will consent to a continuous erosion of privacy in the name of convenience. The framing is convenient for those who benefit from eroding privacy standards assuming that either people don't care about privacy or they care more about other values. It leaves little room, however, for a more dynamic understanding of what privacy is about, and what purpose it serves. If privacy is ultimately about boundary management along dimensions that are both spatial and informational, as suggested by some scholars, it becomes crucial to understand how this boundary management plays out in the online domain with its specific material and informational characteristics.
While online privacy is widely researched – especially from a technical and legal perspective – limited research examines the sense-making and actual practices that unfold around privacy in social media platforms. Scholars such as boyd, boyd and Marvick, Tufekci and Raynes-Goldie have been pioneers in the area, however, largely with empirical studies based on experiences in the U.S. At the European level, several quantitative surveys have been conducted regarding online behavior and privacy expectations – such as EU kids online and the EU-funded CONSENT project – but rarely supplemented by more qualitative studies. Outside North America, there are limited studies that address users' privacy perceptions and strategies from a qualitative perspective, despite the growing empirical as well as theoretical importance of understanding these practices.