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Audience surveillance and the right to anonymous reading in interactive media


The proliferation of interactive media has provided corporations with an unprecedented ability to collect information about individuals’ media consumption habits. This ability of corporations is often reinforced by the rhetoric of “consumer sovereignty,” whereby individuals are misled into entrusting a considerable amount of information about their daily activities in exchange for increased convenience. The purpose of this paper is to explain the ways in which the information that individuals reveal to content and technology providers is subject to the scrutiny of external constituencies. More importantly, this paper, through an analysis of legal precedents, will demonstrate that the right to read anonymously is an important corollary of freedom of speech and that the ability of corporations to share information about individuals’ media consumption habits threatens this right.

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His research interests include privacy, digital rights management systems, and tensions that exist between privacy rights of individuals and intellectual property. An earlier version of this article was presented at the America: Visions and Divisions Conference, Austin 2003. The author would like to thank Oscar H. Gandy and Daniel P. Hillyard for his close reading of this article and helpful suggestions.

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Baruh, L. Audience surveillance and the right to anonymous reading in interactive media. Know Techn Pol 17, 59–73 (2004).

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  • Internet Service Provider
  • Interactive Medium
  • Digital Right Management
  • Copyright Holder
  • Legal Precedent