So what’s the big deal about privacy ? – Adrian Ormsby

So what’s the big deal about privacy anyway? Everyone is doing it.

This weeks readings, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) on Privacy (2013) and Chapter 2 Naked in the Sunlight of ‘Blown to Bits’ by Abelson et al. (2008) address the notion of privacy and it’s history and meaning with respect to developing technology. Both sources point to the importance of privacy as necessary for human dignity and crucial to personal intimacy and meaningful interpersonal relationships. In addition, a helpful Timeline focusing on Privacy in the USA from 1600-2008 is included

The timeline starts with the Puritan colonies of 1600 dominated by pious religious life, when living alone was strictly forbidden. Important steps regarding the notion of privacy included the advent of the Postal service in the 1770’s with Congress enforcing postal confidentiality, followed by the Bill of Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech and opposition to unreasonable search and seizure. Following the US Civil War and abolition of slavery, the 14th Amendment of 1868 guaranteed the right to privacy for all US citizens irrespective of race or color.

The SEP and Abelson readings point to two critical writings on privacy following the 14th Amendment including Warren and Brandies ‘The Right to Privacy” in 1890 articulating privacy as the right to be alone (SEP p.3) and a study by Alan Weston “Privacy and Freedom” in 1967 arguing that privacy is more than just an entitlement to be alone but a right that allows society to function (Abelson p.63).

Technologies of mass communication, such as newspapers in the 19th century to telephones and electronic surveillance in the 20th century, motivated the development of necessary privacy protection under the law (SEP p.13). Recent emerging technical advances such as, sophisticated data gathering, the world wide web , GPS, webcams, smart phones, tablets and even biometric retinal scans, used by government and business, has raised new privacy concerns regarding use and sharing of information (Abelson, p.36-42).

Abelson argues that rapidly changing technology over the last 3 decades has outpaced legal efforts to protect privacy. Consumers desire for the benefits of new technologies, however, including convenience, savings of money and time and most recently social connectedness, has come with the free surrender of privacy by users, rationalized by the belief that everyone is doing it so it must be ok (Abelson, p.58).

Addressing privacy in social media specifically, Danah Boyd in a 2010 speech entitled “Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity” argues that privacy is highly valued by social media users and plays a crucial role in the evolution of the media itself (p.2). Pointing to the failures of Google Buzz and catastrophic changes to privacy settings by FaceBook in 2009, Boyd warns that the perception that users disregard of privacy somehow gives information technologists permission to share data, betrays the trust users have in social media vehicles (p.8) She concludes that emerging new tools and forms of social media will continue to challenge and complicate the fine line between what is private and public (p.12).

One final note of interest regarding privacy was a link suggested by Professor Proctor in response to a Tweet that I posted last week about my daughter’s belief that teens are abandoning Twitter for Instagram. The link titled ‘Here’s how a real teenager uses, and doesn’t use, social media’ authored by Matthew Ingress,, referred to a recent post by a 19 year old how he and his friends use popular social media platforms. Instagram was preferred because they perceived it as more private when compared to either FaceBook or Twitter.

Question: Do you agree with Danah Boyd’s contention that the issue of privacy will influence the evolution of social media going forward? If so, why and how?


22 thoughts on “So what’s the big deal about privacy ? – Adrian Ormsby

  1. Carly Hernandez January 13, 2015 / 9:56 pm

    I definitely think that privacy will influence the evolution of social media going forward. Since people now know that what they put on their social media sites is not truly private, it has raised concerns. I have noticed that many accounts whether it be Facebook or Twitter, that these accounts have been hacked with spam. I have also noticed and heard from many people that people have been using their own personal pictures and creating fake accounts with them. This is definitely an invasion of privacy, especially on Facebook. We all have heard and read about the recent changes to Facebook’s privacy policies and even noticed some changes on our accounts. Websites that you’ve visited now appear as suggestions on your timeline. This is definitely an example of how the evolution of social media is affecting our privacy. When I first recognized it happening to my own Facebook account it made me worried about what information Facebook was using for their own benefit. I think that this made users afraid and scared them off. To get these users back, Facebook needs to change their privacy policies and allow their users to feel safe and trusted. Since Boyd’s main connections were on what the users want and how they use social media sites, she was right in that the creators of these sites should keep the user in mind. She says, “If you make something clearly public, users will work around it, using it for what they think makes the most sense. But if you give users a sense of privacy, a sense of intimacy, exposing them can be quite costly, both to you and to them.” (Boyd 2010) The less privacy we have on social media sites the more likely the user will want to use it less or chose another site.


  2. bjuhasz10 January 13, 2015 / 10:32 pm

    Yes, I certainly believe that the issue of privacy will influence the evolution of social media going forward. First, Boyd begins the article by writing “Privacy Is Not Dead. People of all ages care deeply about privacy. And they care just as much about privacy online as they do offline” (p. 3). With teenagers and adults being the main targets of social media, I believe this audience is becoming more and more conscious of the content they are posting and the possible consequences. Teenagers are becoming increasingly aware that their parents and friend’s parents are monitoring their social media, while adults are well aware that sending anything offensive or inappropriate could put their jobs into jeopardy.

    Boyd, talking about Facebook, concludes: “I worry about how others are going to publicize this publicly available Facebook data and, more importantly, who will get hurt in the cross-fire.” (p.4)
    In an interesting article I found,

    Jed Lacy explains that according to a Princeton study, “Facebook is expected to lose 80 percent of its users between 2015 and 2017” (p. 1). While Lacy notes many possible factors, including oversaturation of users, the last thing mentioned is “the evolution of parents becoming more and more actively involved Facebook users has had profound effects. I don’t know about you, but I think having your mom be able to track your daily activities through Facebook does not seem terribly appealing” (p. 1).

    Ultimately, I believe we will start diverging away from social media that is exclusively public. Obviously we know that as soon as something is sent out on the internet, there is always a possibility of someone intercepting it. However, as technology and social media continues to evolve, I think an emphasis will be put on the privacy of what we post and send. I believe social media which gives the user the option of privacy (or at least the illusion of privacy) will survive, and social media which doesn’t provide privacy (or at least the feeling of being private) will go extinct.


  3. asibo January 14, 2015 / 9:16 pm

    I am certainly in agreement with Boyd that the direction of social media will be influenced by issues of privacy, particularly in that it will be up to us, the users of social media who can either actively help strengthen our own access to privacy on the internet, or who can passively sit by while innovations like Google Buzz and new Facebook changes work to break down privacy barriers. Boyd argues that “by continuously arguing that Privacy is Dead, technologists justify their efforts to make publicly available data more public,” and by merely accepting that we no longer have privacy anymore, we consent letting whatever we have left in private become subject to publication by social networks. O’Reilly talks about how “user contributions are the key to market dominance in the Web 2.0 era” (24), and the same could well apply in terms of privacy on social networks. If as users, we contribute and explicate our wishes to preserve our privacy and to reduce confusing or misleading privacy settings, the tide of settings on social media moving from private to public could be stemmed and eventually overturned.


  4. spgregor January 15, 2015 / 10:41 pm

    I do believe the issue of privacy will influence the evolution of social media moving forward. I believe it will be driven by different desires based on age of users. Older, mature users are more concerned with social media sites that have more privacy for security reasons. As we see more hacking, stalking, and identity theft occurring, we must become more vigilant and protect ourselves if we want to use the internet. Social media sites that are upfront and easy to maneuver through the privacy settings will become more popular. I myself had my Facebook site copied and the fake site used to harass my friends with inbox messages asking for money. It took me six notifications to Facebook and over a month to get the fake site deactivated. I am thankful that I didn’t have any personal information on my site, and I now don’t even use my picture. I only remain on there to keep in contact with my family because I do not live close to any of them.

    Most teenagers, on the other hand, will unfortunately only be concerned with privacy from their parents and will gravitate towards social media that grants them this. As much as I try to explain the perils of the internet and the urgency of being careful on it, I feel my children think I am being paranoid. I wish this subject would be covered in the introduction to computers class that schools offer. This virtual world we now live in requires us to be careful and ensure we have accurate privacy settings to protect our safety as adequately as possible.


  5. blcarr January 17, 2015 / 3:30 am

    The revolving evolution of social media in my definition is privacy. It’s obvious that social media is not private. We can lock our pages, set millions of passwords with encrypted codes and specialty shields but once you hit send, your picture or video is captured and categorized. For instance, look at all the spam being shared on Facebook. Every time I log in, I am hit with free this, you have won this, click here for your chance at this and whatever else type of add. Instagram for example had fake accounts of people portraying to be somebody else. A pretty girl will post a sexy picture and 5 minutes later, that same picture is being promoted or portrayed by a company or another person who is looking to gain more followers. I’m saying this to say, the less privacy the user has will more than likely cause the social medial site to lose followers.


  6. bubbastinx January 17, 2015 / 5:46 pm

    I think the evolution of social media is a great thing, and privacy as always a serious problem, but again I always point to the general population for allowing such things to happen.

    How many times have we signed up for a social media site, or a phone app, and then we have this huge 200 page rule and regulations that we casually just accept without reading. Has anyone ever took the time to read those 100 page slave contracts?

    I’ve skipped around a few on Facebook, and it states in very cryptic paragraphs on what your rights are, what you own, and what Facebook can do with the data it collects for you.

    A few years back I moved to Pittsburgh, PA. I was taken back by my auto insurance contract there. It was very straight forward, simple, and not written with legal jargon. I called my agent, and asked about this.

    They stated that PA passed a law a few years back stating that many consumer legal contracts had to be summarized in laymen terms, so that everyone is in full knowledge of what they are signing.

    Why couldn’t we all rally together to do something like this nationally?


  7. Brandon Coulter January 17, 2015 / 6:07 pm

    When it comes to questioning the influence of privacy and the abundance or lack thereof in terms of how it will affect the use of social media within the world, I feel as though it is completely important to note who and where these said social media outlets are being used. For the younger generation, problems such as security or privacy measures are not going to ring well within their ears, but rather soar right over the heads when the latest trend in social media appears. The craze alone with cause them to flock in large numbers over to whatever is to overtake Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, as it will come sooner than anyone would ever think.

    For the older generation of teenagers and young-adults, issues concerning privacy are becoming more prevalent as more and more pieces of information are becoming public after subscribing to one of these sites. As these sites are required to post all of their terms and guidelines as well as their privacy policies within their description and Terms and Conditions, those truly concerned with privacy will be able to clearly see exactly what can and will be shared, regardless of how technical the site may make it sound. For this group of users as well as the older ones conscious of the privacy issues arising, I feel as though the outlet of social media will become a tool used less and less over time, never completely disappearing but deteriorating into a minor aspect of Internet interaction.


  8. Ms.McCollum January 17, 2015 / 9:37 pm

    Without reading the article on how teens use social media I can first agree that Instagram may seem more private. If your account is set to private you cannot see a thing on that account, unlike Facebook that will still show you photos. Instagram does not tell you birthdays, relationships, or any other really personal information. Certainty you can add locations and a small bio, but I would agree.

    To say that Instagram is more social than Twitter, I would disagree. The ability to retweet gives your more coverage than to hope your photos appears in discover on Instagram. I do also know how important it is to tweet and I want a high Klout score.

    Snapchat definitely is an invigorating experience, but now with gradual leaks of scandalous photos people may rethink this app, at least how they use it. In regards to Snapchat not being social, also true and I think the creators had that in mind when they created Snapchash. They ability to share money through the app was supposed to market the app as more social and drive more activity. Personally I think it just reinforced the fact that your photo can disappear. In my COMM 360 class we brought this up, “Oh send me a nudie and I’ll send you $5.” Well that sure is social!


  9. hessaj January 17, 2015 / 9:49 pm

    There’s no doubt that social media is the number one outlet of news, interaction etc. of today. Privacy is a given right and it should be. While being public can be rewarding with connecting with others and potentially growing yourself, it CAN be dangerous what people can do with your information. Even if you’re private, there are times where the system could be played with, like in 2011 where around 77 million Playstation accounts were stolen. Information to important stuff were in the hands of these hackers for their own personal gain. (

    So the matter of should I stay public or private is still really up for debate. I personally like to stay public. I think within the future, we should really depend on the system itself to make private users feel protected. While most of the time you truly are protected having yourself as private, are you really protected? The internet can be a gamble, but I truly think it can be rewarding. Like Danah Boyd said,

    “Wanting privacy is not about needing something to hide. It’s about wanting to maintain control. Often, privacy isn’t about hiding; it’s about creating space to open up. If you remember that privacy is about maintaining a sense of control, you can understand why Privacy is Not Dead. There are good reasons to engage in public; there always have been. But wanting to be in public doesn’t mean wanting to lose control.”

    It’s up to us, we the community of the internet, to shape the future of the internet how we want it to be.


  10. seananthony3 January 18, 2015 / 5:00 pm

    I totally feel like it will influence the evolution of social media. The Google Buzz incident was an example was I wasn’t aware of until this article, but it is very similar to the whines every time Facebook changes its privacy policy. Every year or two, an article floats around Facebook warning users of privacy policy changes and that you will need to change your settings. The end of 2014 had another article floating around about privacy policy changes, but this wasn’t truly what they were going to do. What’s important is for the users to be aware that they can opt out of certain services and settings and as we continue to understand what is shown by default, more options will become available to us.


  11. thegradytrain January 18, 2015 / 7:01 pm

    To answer the question, I feel like in a way, the issue of privacy has already affected and currently influences the evolution of social media. The level of privacy I believe would see the most often though is privacy from public of other users, like only letting Facebook friends see specific information from your profile. Previously it was a pretty rigid system, but it has gotten a little bit more robust, even to allow filtering of specific content to specific people within groups that can be user defined. There are still things that can’t be filtered and I think Take This Lollipop illustrates some of those holes, at least in Facebook’s system. I think ultimately, social networkers want control over the information visible on their virtual life as much as they can control the information in their real life, but with holding virtual information once it is created is extremely difficult to the point of being infeasible.

    No matter how private or secure a specific social network may appear, the information exists somewhere and it doesn’t take a lot these days gain access to secured information. What users of social networks should realize is that they may own the information but they don’t own the service that hosts the information. As much as social network providers change their privacy settings to allow more strict or loose policies, once a user submits a post to the internet they lose ownership of that information. This fact will always exist and it supersedes privacy settings on social networks that they try to put in place for users. In the end, social networks may change and evolve but I think there will be an eventual ceiling that I don’t think we will be able to get past.


  12. Miles Storms January 18, 2015 / 7:33 pm

    Do you agree with Danah Boyd’s contention that the issue of privacy will influence the evolution of social media going forward? If so, why and how?

    I agree with Danah Boyd and the issue of privacy. A great example, as many have already pointed out, is where

    “Facebook proudly announced that 35% of users had altered their privacy settings when they had encountered this popup. They were proud of this because, as research has shown, very few people actually change the defaults. But this means that 65% of users changed their settings to public.”

    Facebook was proud of the fact that people did not change it back, not that 35% changed it to being private again. What does that say about Facebook’s intention? Personally I feel that it is a red flag. It shows Facebook is no longer there to “connect people” it is there to make their margins these days. I personally was a sucker and still encounter it each time they change their EULA (privacy statements). My settings continue to somehow go back to being public. I feel I do not have anything to hide, but its the point. So if they are capable of this, what else are they capable of?

    Danah Boyd also confirms my position as she shares the moments she has encountered with “non techy” people and showing them what truly is being portrayed. Granted, as I do not think many know, there is a feature to view your profile as an outside view, I actually recently did this and changed many pictures back to friends/family only.

    In the end, it ultimately falls onto the users of having to be familiar with what is going on with their social media websites, and until that day happens, there will always be an issue. (this includes me too)


  13. nebior January 18, 2015 / 10:06 pm

    I read through many of the comments already posted on this topic (part of my reason for waiting until Sunday) and I think I might have a different view on privacy than most of you in some ways. First off, privacy will always affect social media. Many people want all of their information to be visible only to those they wish to see the information. The best social media sites will allow the most connection to other people, but only to people you wish to connect to. Also, the best sites will give users the most thorough and customizable privacy settings. Where I feel I may differ from many of you is the fact that I do not worry about my privacy. Using the lollipop website we looked at for class as an example, if somebody was after me then they would find me with or without social media. I do not care who might see my photos, posts, phone numbers, my address, or anything like that. People should only post things that they want EVERYONE to see. Don’t post that you’re going on a 10 day vacation which informs everyone that you are not protecting your house. Don’t post photos until you’re home from the trip. Only put out information that you would be comfortable with anyone seeing. I personally wouldn’t mind anyone seeing information about me unless it was about me not being at my house. If I put information online then I just expect it to go completely public and I do not mind that at all whereas many people do which will force social media sites to improve privacy settings. The fact that many people have different views than my own will force social media sites to constantly improve their privacy policies and settings.

    — Ben Walker


  14. jaemillz411 January 18, 2015 / 10:26 pm

    I agree with Boyd’s contention that the issue of privacy will influence the evolution of social media, because often times we forget that the Internet is reliant on our participation. We forget how much power we have to control the way we use the Internet. People are becoming smarter when it comes to the information they are putting on social networks. For instance, the article about how Instagram is winning social popularity over Facebook because it requires less personal information. Instagram allows you to portray yourself the way you see fit instead of limiting you into preselected categories (poke, like, friend, etc.). People are becoming more interested in utilizing the Internet for their benefit rather than the other way around. People want to be connected, but still care about their privacy and safety. Heck after reading all these articles I even took a look at what information I was letting the world see and made some changes. We need to make sure that the lines are clear between the Private and Public worlds. If we are going to participate in both worlds we should have a say in how they operate. And we do as long as we do our part in the evolution.


  15. elrader2015 January 18, 2015 / 11:00 pm

    When I read your post, it really struck home when you mentioned technologies that allow for mass communication. There is currently a technology developed by Denso, a global automotive supplier, that allows for cars to be in communication with satellites, other cars, infrastructure, your home and even the road! While Denso has this vision of a “Smart City” that makes the roads a safer place for all, the technology itself sounds extremely tuned in, almost too much so. I don’t know if I’d like my ability to go off the map be taken from me. Here is a link to this V2X technology:
    As technology advances it becomes more and more difficult to keep things private. Futuristic technologies like these should definitely be discussed so the people are aware of what’s coming, especially so they can prepare to give up even more privacy. With the passage of time, I’m afraid nothing will be private anymore.


  16. akuelbs January 19, 2015 / 2:17 am

    Privacy plays a big role for many people in society and how they act on social media, but this doesn’t apply to everyone. I personally do not think that privacy plays the role as people like Instagram over twitter, but i think its more of people seeing Instagram as the new form of social media to use. Social media has gone through cycles in which we went from MySpace, to Facebook, to Twitter, and Instagram. Social media to me go through trends just like clothes, where as soon as the big thing came out, people tend to gear towards it because it is the new in thing. We can say this about snapchat, where people jumped straight on this trend as soon as it came out.

    If i were to give my personal input on this, all forms of social media in which i do not trust, i lie about my personal information because i don’t want private information getting into the wrong hands. I think more social media should use usernames and not actual names. But the only problem with that is things such as Facebook is tailored towards people looking up friends and such so you generally need names. So it is hard to feel you have a sense of privacy when using a social media that is geared towards finding out your personal information so you can find other people you know. We just need to all have our own limits and guidelines that we should follow when using social media.


  17. smkiraco January 19, 2015 / 2:48 am

    Oh, definitely. Facebook is the biggest example. Multiple times now Facebook has been harshly criticized for changes in its privacy options and how your data is handled and distributed. Many of these changes I would argue are to spark monetary gain especially in the stock market.

    In 2013 its stock plummeted even though the majority of its competitors climbed greatly ( Part of this could be linked to how to monetize the users e.g. ad revenue. Thanks to the structure of “Web 2.0” data is power. If this data was being kept internal to the site in question, then I do not think that as many people would have an issue with them storing it. However, being part of a capitalistic society enables these companies and their sites to use their materials, i.e. data, in the most efficient way possible. This makes it hard for companies to turn down the monetary gain sharing and selling it could provide.

    This is not to say enough outcry can offset this. Again, Facebook has changed multiple times due to outcry.


  18. lewenzel93 January 19, 2015 / 4:03 am

    I do agree with Danah Boyd’s idea that the issue of privacy will influence the evolution of social media in the future. Social media is all about giving out personal information. Whether it’s your simple opinion that you prefer Pepsi to Coke, or that you just got accepted to your dream school, it’s always about what parts of yourself you’re willing to share. And as a user of many social media sites, I like to believe that I have a say in just who is able to partake in this knowledge.

    It’s a big issue in just who sees our posts, but do those onlookers get any privacy, too? What I mean is, if I post a picture, and you see it, do I deserve to know that you saw it? That would play a big role in my social media use, too. I mean, we’ve all done it, stalked an ex on Facebook to see if his/her new partner is better looking, but what if he knew you did that? It just makes social media users more accountable in the real world and makes the risks that much greater.


  19. doniecew January 19, 2015 / 4:18 am

    People have to be willing and put forth effort into wanting privacy. It’s too many people that uses social media sites without knowing the insides, the effects, the consequences or anything else. Knowledge of privacy needs to be spread in order for any changes to be made. There are not many people that’s concerned about privacy rights. Social media is going to continue to develop. In order for our privacy rights to catch up to social media, the people that use this must be more aware. Even if privacy rights did advance, how protected would we be? I just feel like there’s always a way around the privacy protection.


  20. cseejay January 19, 2015 / 4:45 am

    The United States is always under attack. Whether it is physical or cyber, there is always someone in the world trying to break into everything from our water filtration system to civilian’s personal information. The NSA claims, having ease of access to personal information makes it easier for them to better track terrorist that are planning attacks on the country. This statement is very true, and I think most would agree. I think many would also say that because the information is so easy to obtain, the potential for it to be misused and negatively inflict Americans privacy is great. If Snowden was able to access information easily, then what’s to stop someone else from doing the same thing with malicious intent? According to the President and the NSA, the days of privacy and whether you have control over what the government can see went out the window a long time ago. Many credit this to 9/11 and the outcry for stronger National security. The NSA monitoring Americans social sites, cell phones, and other forms of communication was the result. To their credit, it does seem to be working. With this being brought to everyone’s attention the focus should shift to how American can take back some of his or her Rights to privacy. But, ultimately people don’t necessary care about any of this, seeing how no one (media) even talks about privacy as much any more, especially for how big of a deal privacy is.


  21. stefaniedak January 19, 2015 / 4:49 am

    The issue of privacy will definitely influence the evolution of social media going forward. However, there are a growing number of people who actually want to be public rather than private. When users sign up on networks nowadays, they sign up to be heard. As new generations of young users are arising we are seeing a new trend of big voices. A lot of users are opting out of the option to make their “page” private for the sole purpose of not only expressing themselves but voicing their opinions. It is a new world, and many things we used to call “conspiracies” are turning into beliefs. Social media users are using their popularity to acquire fame, attention, and in a lot of cases gain support for their beliefs. What about these trend-setters and big voices? As time goes on, more and more of us want to voice our opinions. Therefore, many users are beginning to want less privacy and more attention for these reasons.


  22. rmpaulk January 19, 2015 / 4:56 am

    We have ingrained in our minds to give people the benefit of the doubt, so a part of me believes that these social media sites, like Facebook, aren’t trying to invade our privacy or scare off its users. I feel that their original purpose for doing things, like having ads targeted towards the sites you have visited, was to make our lives easier. We (American’s) love being lazy. We like when people do the hard work for us and hand things to us. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. We feel like we deserve a little luxury for the hard work we do. So, social media sites tried to help us. We wanted a more user targeted experience? Here are people you may know so you don’t have to search them out, here are sites you might like, and here are games you might want to download. “Don’t worry, we will do the searching for you.” The problem is, these sites didn’t outright tell us that they were watching what we were doing in order to “help us”. This is what gives off that creepy vibe. If the sites came out and said, “Here is what we are doing. If you don’t want the site customized to you and your activity, please click here or please don’t use our site.”


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