Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 293–315 | Cite as

The practical politics of sharing personal data

  • Peter TolmieEmail author
  • Andy Crabtree
Original Article


The focus of this paper is upon how people handle the sharing of personal data as an interactional concern. A number of ethnographic studies of domestic environments are drawn upon in order to articulate a range of circumstances under which data may be shared. In particular, a distinction is made between the in situ sharing of data with others around you and the sharing of data with remote parties online. A distinction is also drawn between circumstances of purposefully sharing data in some way and circumstances where the sharing of data is incidental or even unwitting. On the basis of these studies, a number of the organisational features of how people seek to manage the ways in which their data is shared are teased out. The paper then reflects upon how data sharing practices have evolved to handle the increasing presence of digital systems in people’s environments and how these relate to the ways in which people traditionally orient to the sharing of information. In conclusion, a number of ways are pointed out in which the sharing of data remains problematic and there is a discussion of how systems may need to adapt to better support people’s data sharing practices in the future.


Personal data Privacy Information sharing Domestic data management practices Ethnomethodology 



This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council [grant numbers EP/F064276/1, EP/K039911/1, EP/M001636/1, EP/N028260/1] and the European Commission [FP7-ICT project ID 611001]. Thanks are also extended to the numerous household inhabitants who have participated in the studies over the past 10 years. Data supporting this publication is not openly available, as University of Nottingham ethics approval does not allow for the release of transcripts containing personal data to third parties.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mixed Reality Laboratory, School of Computer ScienceUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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