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.

Online privacy

Privacy as a policy topic

Whereas online privacy has been debated for years, recent developments such as the Snowden revelations and growing privacy challenges related to big data have taken the debate to a new level of international policy awareness. Examples of this increased policy focus include the adoption of the first U.N. General Assembly Resolution on The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age; the on-going reform of the EU data protection regime; and the growing attention towards the privacy impact of technology companies inspired by ­– among others ­– the U.N. "Guiding principles on business and human rights".

These policy discourses are inherently part of and influenced by social structures as stressed by critical discourse analysis that rejects the possibility of a value-free society and rather than denying such relations plead to study their formation. As argued by Jørgensen, Internet-related policy-making draw upon different metaphors and conceptual framings of public and private, rendering some policy choices more obvious than others. For example, it makes a difference whether a social network site is framed primarily as a commercial service; or as a public platform that is part of the public sphere/public discourse. In the first case the company would usually be given a wider margin in defining their service even when this includes certain limitations on rights and freedoms, for example, limits on the type of expressions allowed within the platform. In contrast, if the social network site is framed primarily as a platform for public discourse it seems less obvious to allow for a more restricted version of freedom of expressions, compared to other public spaces. The ambiguity as to the framing of major Internet companies is illustrated by the recent ruling on Google Spain SL concerning the company's obligations vis-`-vis online privacy. In the ruling, the court stated that Google is responsible for the processing of its users personal data, including data which appears on third-party Web sites. In consequence, the company might in certain cases be requested to de-index links to Web sites containing personal data. Whereas many privacy advocates have welcomed the decision as a step towards a "right to be forgotten" on the Internet, concern has also been raised that this places Google in a situation where they might be intrigued to restrict the general access to information on the Internet, with negative impact on freedom of information. The case is illustrative of some of the current challenges related to the role and duties of the private companies that control public infrastructure and public life on the Internet. The case also reiterates how discourse defines and confines the right to privacy, thus in order to adequately address online privacy as a policy topic, it is crucial to understand not only the practices and strategies that users deploy but also to critically address the policy framing of the social media platforms that facilitate online public life.