[Air-L] Dissertation & public/private

Alexis Turner subbies at redheadedstepchild.org
Fri Aug 10 10:40:14 PDT 2007

On Fri, 10 Aug 2007, M. Deanya Lattimore wrote:

::Good, good,  -- I was thinking this way too as to your first point.  The 
::problem with the second point is that I argue in my diss that ALL 
::electronic and computer writing must be considered to some degree 
::"public": it's not a dichotomous construct.
::If people did not want their information to be considered "published," 
::then they should write it on paper and keep it under their mattresses, 
::not type it into large databases that are collected, spidered, and 
::searched by other online tools.
::So by default for me, all internet work has been intended for 
::publication.  Maybe to limited audiences, like when someone posts pics 
::of themselves getting drunk in Facebook, but the fact of the matter is, 
::it's still more in the public space than in the private one.

There is a very big difference between your phrase "*intended* for publication" 
and *published*.  Items on the internet have been published insofar as they are 
usually publicly accessible and relatively persistent.  However, given that the 
average user is not aware of how spiders, caches, or searches work, it would be 
presumptuous to assume that they *intended* their thoughts to be published in 
the legal sense of the word.

Consider the following examples:
Having a party in my backyard is not something I would consider public, even if 
there is the off chance that a passerby could look through the fence and see and 
hear what was going on.  
A hacker could theoretically hop on to my computer and download love letters I 
wrote to my girlfriend.  A burglar could also break into my house and steal the 
letters from under my matress.  But in either scenario, it is reasonable for me 
to believe my papers - whether locked in a *personal computer* or a *personal 
home* -are secure...and to be royally pissed when I discover that they weren't.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of the US legal system, privacy exists where 
there is a "Reasonable expectation" that it does.  It would be reasonable, I 
suspect, for me to feel that my backyard party is a private affair.  The 
real question for electronic communication, then, is whether it is 
reasonable...or, more specifically, whether a reasonable man would consider it 
so....to believe that any Internet communication is private.  I think in some 
cases this IS a reasonable assumption - just because there is a *possibility* 
that something can be seen by an unintended party does not mean that it is 
reasonable to believe that it *will*.  it's possible that my phone is being 
tapped right now, but I would be considered paranoid if I truly believed that 
was occurring - sure, the technology exists, but that doesn't mean it's 
reasonable to believe that it is happening at this moment or that it is even 

So, really, you must ask whether there are scenarios where an individual can 
reasonably believe that their communication is being seen only by its intended 
audience - whether it is reasonable to believe that it is private.  In the case 
of password protected communities....?  Given that the average reasonable person 
is probably actually quite unaware of the machinations of spiders....?  Would it 
be reasonable for a person who has knowingly published their article in a 
journal to think it is private?  That is the difference between something 
published on MySpace and in an electronic journal database.

::elw at stderr.org wrote:
:: > Presumably journal articles have already gone through the local
:: > ethics/institutional review process as they're written.
:: >
:: > We also have an expectation that journal articles are written with the
:: > intent of publication - they're not accidental.
:: >
:: > --e
::deanya wrote:
::>> Hi Alex! Okay, I'll challenge this, LOL! Articles that are found in 
::>> subscription databases are constantly cited, and all you have to do is 
::>> provide info about your level of access.
::>> What makes MySpace or Livejournal different from database collections?
::>> Alex Halavais wrote:
::>>> I think that any blog that requires any sort of log in is off limits,
::>>> even if anyone can randomly log in to gain access. I'd be willing to
::>>> be challenged on that, but I think of it as a rule of thumb. So, for
::>>> example, some MySpace and Livejournal pages are only available to
::>>> subscribers (same deal for most social network profiles), and I think
::>>> these have to be handled differently.
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