ESRC Seminar: Policy, Privacy and Digital Presence: The right to be forgotten in the virtual world
Privacy Revisited in Context of Social Media
Janet Hui XUE
[email protected], [email protected]
PhD student at the Soft Power Advocacy & Research Centre, Macquarie University
PhD visiting student at the Centre for Social-Legal Studies, University of Oxford
What is new in the context of Social Media?
Defining concept of privacy remains long-lasting exercise (Westin, 1967; Gavison, 1980, Petronio, 1991,
2002; Rawlins, 1998; Gumpert & Drucker, 2001; Nissenbaum, 1998), and largely loses clarity with the
recent intersection with another term - personal data (Kasper, 2005, Cutillo, 2009; G¨urses, 2010;
Greenleaf, 2012). As data flow is experienced internetworked online transmission and multi-layer
offline spatial distribution, understanding this pair of terms is challenged in different contexts afforded
by social media site (SNS).
These contexts complicate any single stage of life cycle of personal data as well as the parameters of
data transmission norms. The life cycle of personal data include data collection, stockpiling, processing,
and dissemination. Parameters of data transmission norms consist of actors (subject, sender, recipient),
attributes (types of data), and transmission principles (constraints under which data flows). Data flows
in these new contexts could weaken, blur or strengthen traditional borders of many kinds as well as
create new borders of inclusion and exclusion (Marx & Muschert, 2007). Some paradoxical
characteristics of SNS are thus generated-sharing and hiding, public and private, professional and
personal, solitude and intimate, etc. These characteristics enable information privacy, bodily privacy,
relational privacy, and communication privacy in the traditional age become intertwined with each other
and converged in the age of SNS (Xue & Chitty, 2013).
Therefore, I argue that privacy cannot be viewed by polarized perspectives: subjectivity and autonomy
against the society, or completely transparent to others, but each individual’s controllability right of
personal data by setting up the boundaries of being to self and being with others. However, this
controllability needs constant negotiation with other individuals, organizations, and states. This
controllability varies because of cultural values, technology design, and legal regulation. The latter three
are hardly separated from each other but instead intersected to define contexts. Therefore, the
controllability differs as data flow cross different media platforms, national borders and are processed
by different data users. The controllability also varies as relations shaped between individual, and
society and state in a new surveillance.
In the following space I will outline major points on conceptualization of privacy which I would like to
discuss with you over the seminars from perspectives of data subjects and data users. It will contribute
to understandings of privacy in the context of social media.
Data subjects: Sharing and hiding
What I would like to share or hide – classification of personal data
When I would like to share or hide – retention and deletion
Why I would like to share or hide – cultural value and social norms
Whom I would like to share or hide – inclusion and exclusion
What harms might occur to me - inequality and injustice
What I can do if these harms occur to me – technical design and legal solution
Data users: Collection and process (misuse)
Is it personal data at all – personal data and impersonal data (anonymity, pseudo-anonymity)
What are criteria for collecting
Should this criteria differ to different collectors – corporation, governments, individual users
Categorization of collection and misuse: over collection with notice, collection without insufficient
notice, intentional/unintentional leaking, intensive data mining for marking purpose, intrusion of
private space (Xue & Chitty, 2013)
5. What are economic value and social impact of privacy loss for corporation and individuals? –
sharing ownership and sharing responsibility
New surveillance
Surveillance is an approach of population management in terms of politics, economics and culture.
1. Surveillance erodes our privacy: past, present and future
2. We use surveillance technologies to protect our privacy (Marx. 2003)
3. We monitor others while we intend to protect our own privacy
4. We are all watchers while being watched with incomparable capabilities
5. Mass surveillance leads to social sorting and differentiates people’s protection capability of privacy
(Lyon, 2003)
6. Mass surveillance changes the relations between individuals, organization and society
Privacy, security and identity (some discussion above also refers to this aspect)
1. Exchange privacy for security –do we feel secure when living in society of documented mobility,
activity and location?
2. What happens to personal data is a deeply serious question if that data in part actually constitutes
who the person is (Lyon, 2003).
3. Present different sets of personal data in different contexts – multi-identity management
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Lyon, D. (2003) Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk and Digital Discrimination, Routledge.
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Social Issues, Vol.59 (2), pp.369-390.
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Xue, H.; Chitty, N. (2013) Commercial Misuse of Personal Data by Stakeholders of SNS and Its Policy
Implications: A Case Study on Weibo, presented on China and the New Internet World: The Eleventh
Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC11), Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford, 6.15.

What is new in the context of Social Media?