Contextualised Concerns
The Online Privacy Attitudes of Young
Michael Dowd
August 2010
Presentation structure
• Brief summary and critical evaluation of
existing research.
• Outline of research approach.
• Presentation of interim findings.
• Visualisation and Other Methods of
– Exploring how people engage with concepts of
privacy and consent in online interactions.
– Collaborative project: The University of Salford,
RHUL, Cranfield University, Sunderland City Council
and Consult Hyperion.
– Funded by TSB/EPSRC/ESRC under the EPAC
(Ensuring Privacy and Consent) programme.
Survey based research: key
• ‘Determinant factors’:
– Gender (Hoy and Milne, 2010; Coles-Kemp et al, 2010; Cho et
al, 2009; Garbarino & Strahilevitz, 2004; Sheehan, 1999).
– Age (Cho et al, 2009; Bellman et al, 2004; Nowak & Phelps,
– Levels of education (Milne & Gordon, 1994; Wang & Petrison,
1993; Nowak & Phelps, 1992)
– Levels of internet experience?
• ‘Privacy paradox’
Qualitative research into social
networking sites
• Not just Danah Boyd!
– Sonia Livingstone, Kate Raynes-Goldie, Susannah
Stern, Jenny Ryan, Jane Lewis and Anne West…
• Generation of rich, contextual data:
– Innovative privacy protective behaviours.
– Provides a nuanced picture.
• Shortcomings:
• More ‘niche’ sites neglected.
• Cross-contextual comparisons cannot be made.
Research approach
• Sample: Young adults (16-20, born between
1990 and 1994).
• Method: semi-structured interviews.
– “…instead of asking abstract questions, or taking a ‘one-sizefits-all’ structured approach, you may want to give maximum
opportunity for the construction of contextual knowledge by
focusing on relevant specifics in each interview […] The point
really is that if what you are interested in, ontologically and
epistemologically speaking, is for example a social process
which operates situationally, then you will need to ask
situational rather than abstract questions.” (Mason, 2002: 64).
– Take place next to a laptop with internet access.
Interim findings
• Self-confidence:
– Frank: “I got an ‘A’ in ICT so I know most stuff about
computers and the internet”
• Personal responsibility:
– Luke: “…it’s just what you get yourself into, what you
allow yourself to get into”
• Deception:
– Strangers vs. Known parties.
Interim findings
• ‘Identity theft’: threat to reputation.
• Gender issues:
– Meeting ‘new girls’
• Frank: “Obviously you’re gonna try and get chatting on to
– Online harassment
• Julie: “Ah, all the men and stuff adding me all the time”
– Stereotypes
• ‘Dirty old men’
• Vulnerable women
• Provided outline of research and its relationship
with existing literature.
• Contended that the value of social science in
this area is in contributing rich, situated data
which can help us understand privacy attitudes
in context.
• Called for more qualitative research into online
privacy attitudes: not just into Facebook!
Thank you for listening!
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