[Air-l] Facebook protests
michael.zimmer at nyu.edu
Thu Sep 7 04:08:53 PDT 2006
Re affecting privacy vs. "perceived" privacy, I'd offer that the
"contextual integrity" model I'm borrowing from  for my ad hoc
analysis might allow us to remove the slippery term "privacy" from
the debate altogether.
Instead, one can simply look at the existing norms of information
flow within the particular context. What has governed the flow of
personal information - conceived as both the type of information that
is appropriate to distribute, and to whom it is being distributed?
Such norms dictate one's expectations within that context, which
frame their relationships and expected interactions with other
people, with the state, etc. "Privacy," as a term, doesn't need to
enter into the calculus.
If the introduction of a new technology or practice into that context
disrupts those norms, then a red flag must go up recognizing that
this isn't just the status quo. Public information posted on a
website is not the same as a news feed automatically distributing
changes to that public information. Yes, the content has remained the
same, but the distribution has changed. The red flag rises, and the
designers of the technology would recognize the disruption to
contextual integrity and then engage in the normative debate over
whether the disruption is acceptable/ethical/etc.
I submit that if the folks at Facebook had considered such an
approach, they at least might have anticipated some of the backlash.
Perhaps they would have just introduced it as a new feature that
users could opt-in for (rather than making the default, as I
 Nissenbaum, H. (2004) Privacy as contextual integrity. Washington
Law Review, 79 (1), 119-157.
On Sep 7, 2006, at 5:58 AM, Mark Bell wrote:
> Michael's perspective on this issue was definitely a new way of
> looking at
> things but I still can't agree.
> "By adding a news feed for all changes to a
> particular user's profile, Facebook changed the way personal
> information flows within that context, and that does impact user
> The changes definitely change personal information flow but they don't
> affect privacy. It may affect "perceived" privacy but anything a
> puts up on Facebook has to be seen as no longer private.
> A student is not forced to join Facebook. There is no requirements for
> profile information except a name and a valid university email
> address. So
> anything that is added above that is the choice of the student and
> by doing
> it, they are choosing to make private material public.
> As we saw yesterday, loosing that perceived privacy is powerful and
> it is
> definitely something to research on it's own. Today, I am more
> about the effects of these changes on how we gain access to data
> from these
> sites for research purposes.
> On 9/6/06, Michael Zimmer <michael.zimmer at nyu.edu> wrote:
>> Many seem to think it is naiive and contradictory for students to
>> post personal information online and then complain when a new feature
>> is created to make it easier for others to find it.
>> However, this is less about users not realizing that their personal
>> information is public in the first place, and more about how changing
>> the norms of flow of that information disrupts the "contextual
>> integrity" within the Facebook community.
>> Yes, they knew that all that information was out there, but the
>> existence of that information takes new meaning (and new potency) now
>> that the delivery method has been refined in such a way that each and
>> every change is automatically highlighted and sent to tens/hundreds/
>> thousands of other users. By adding a news feed for all changes to a
>> particular user's profile, Facebook changed the way personal
>> information flows within that context, and that does impact user
>> While users can control the privacy settings for their profile,
>> Facebook should also (if they haven't already) allow users to control
>> what information, if any, will be sent via the feed.
>> flow-of-personal-information/ ]
>> Michael T. Zimmer
>> Doctoral Candidate, Culture and Communication, New York University
>> Student Fellow, Information Law Institute, NYU Law School
>> e: michael.zimmer at nyu.edu
>> w: http://michaelzimmer.org
>> On Sep 6, 2006, at 10:01 PM, Ledbetter, Andrew Michael wrote:
>>> Just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on the recent changes at
>>> facebook and subsequent user response:
>>> Briefly, facebook recently enabled "news feeds" which allow
>>> anyone's friends to immediately see changes to profiles, friendship
>>> networks, etc., a feature which cannot be deactivated. In response,
>>> many users have formed protest groups, one of which has
>>> approximately half a million members (and there are thousands of
>>> other protest groups)---the users claim the changes are "stalker-
>>> ish". Media is framing as a tension between the transparency of
>>> social networking sites and desire for privacy.
>>> Andrew M. Ledbetter
>>> Doctoral Candidate
>>> Department of Communication Studies
>>> University of Kansas
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> Mark Bell
> MA student in Ball State University's Digital Storytelling program
> "The future is here...it's just not widely distributed." - Tim
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