San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
Wall Posts Can't Protect You: Networked Privacy & Social Surveillance in Facebook
In the autumn of 2012, a popular Facebook meme involved a cut-and-paste “privacy notice” that served as a folk legal strategy, aimed at protecting people’s Facebook posts from being used by, well, Facebook. While this was quickly debunked, its popularity points to a larger issue, namely the futility of individual control over information dissemination, and thus the reliance on others to protect individual privacy on social network sites like Facebook, which I conceptualize as networked privacy.
Online privacy is often framed either as a binary of public vs. private information, or of information that flows from a known and anticipated context to an unknown and unanticipated context. Neither frame takes into account the affordances of social technologies, which enable people to widely share information about someone without their consent, that preclude individual control over privacy. For many, control over social context and individual agency is required to feel that something is private. However, the power differentials inherent in human relationships mean that both control and agency are constantly violated, not only by changing technologies, but by differing levels of social status. These power differentials are also illuminated by the widespread practice of social surveillance, or the close examination of content created by others and views of one’s own content through other people’s eyes. Individuals strategically reveal, disclose and conceal personal information to create connections with others and tend social boundaries.
Using examples from ethnographic studies of American social media use, I discuss how Facebook’s promotion of networked privacy and social surveillance contributes to the reinforcement of tightly striated social hierarchies.
When & Where
Theorizing the Web
The Theorizing the Web conference seeks to bring together an inter/non-disciplinary group of scholars, journalists, artists, and commentators to theorize the Web. As in the past, we encourage interrogations of power, social inequality, and social justice; intersections of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, and disability will be woven throughout the conference.