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

Online public life

In the twenty-first century, electronic media have effected a gradual reorganization of our social spaces and places. The invention and popularization of the World Wide Web in the 1990s further contributed to the transformation of the structural conditions of public life and the private life of the individual. The result is the emergence of new actors, a redistribution of roles and responsibilities and new types of power relations in an increasingly global public sphere.

'Public' and 'private' have served as meta categories in Western academic discourse, legal practice, and policy debates since classical antiquity. The distinction may be used to describe a boundary between the private world of intimacy and the public world of sociability, or the public (visible, open for all) character of processes as opposed to private processes (closed, limited entry), or particular interests (economic or individual) as different from general (public) interest. The public/private dichotomy has been subject to criticism, including whether the distinction is in fact meaningful. It has also been suggested to include a third category, 'the social', or a 'third place'.

Scholars such as Jacobs, Sennett, Elias, and Oldenburg have presented the public as a diverse complex of encounters in the public spaces of streets, parks, neighbourhoods, and cafes, and its ability to encourage public life is closely related to how these zones facilitate the flow of everyday movement and activity. The notion of public is thus linked to sociability, which may be both intentional and non-intentional, and to the spatial organization of social life. Public spaces have many purposes in social life. They allow people to make sense of the social norms that regulate society, they let people learn to express themselves and learn from the reactions of others, and they let people make certain acts or expressions 'real' by having witnesses acknowledge them. Online public spaces differ from physical public spaces by being mediated, searchable, and potentially global. Further, the interaction may be recorded or copied and there may be invisible audiences or audiences who were not present at the time of the conversation. In the Danish study presented below, online social media is referred to as a semi-public space. As such it represents a space, which is in principle open to everyone, yet at the same time owned and controlled by a private company and governed by their terms of service. These terms of service define the boundaries for privacy within the platform and turn a seemingly public space into de jure private places.