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Keeping Up Appearances: Audience Segregation in Social Network Sites

Abstract

In the last couple of years research has shown that most social network sites pose serious privacy and security risks for individual users. Based on the existing analyses of privacy and security risks in social network sites, we have clustered these risks in two large categories. One category revolves around the notion of “audience segregation”, which is the partitioning of different audiences and the compartmentalisation of social spheres. Since audience segregation is an important tool in everyday interactions between people in the real world, we argue that social network sites ought to include this mechanism as well. In this article we discuss the necessity of audience segregation in view of privacy and security in social network sites and its lack in current social network sites. We then present a privacy-preserving social network site, called Clique that is being developed to consistently provide audience segregation to users.

Keywords

  • Personal Information
  • Social Network Site
  • Draft Version
  • Personal Content
  • Disclosure Regulation

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    By ‘personal content’ we mean any content (i.e. text, pictures, sounds, movies etc.) that can be attributed to and/or is experienced as ‘personal’ by the person posting it. By ‘personal information’ we mean any attribute (i.e. name, address, work or leisure affiliation, etc.) that can be attributed to and/or is experienced as ‘personal’ by the person posting it. This definition is broader than the definition of ‘personal data’ within Directive 95/46/EC and that of ‘Personally Identifiable Information’ as used in the US.

  2. 2.

    See http://clique.primelife.eu. Clique was built using Elgg [see http://elgg.com], an open source social networking engine.

  3. 3.

    Kirsti Ala-Mutka, et al., The impact of social computing on the EU information society and economy. (Seville: IPTS/JRC, 2009), 16

  4. 4.

    http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics, last accessed on 11 January 2011.

  5. 5.

    Confusingly, in many current-day social network sites a person’s contacts are called ‘friends’, regardless of the actual relation (friend, relative, colleague, acquaintance, and so on) the person has to these others. This issue will be discussed in more detail below. Following James Grimmelmann, we prefer to use the term ‘contacts’ for the collection of connections that a person gathers in a social network site, since “…it’s more neutral about the nature of the relationship than the terms used by many sites, such as ‘friend’ […] …‘friends’ include not just people we’d call ‘friends’ offline but also those we’d call ‘acquaintances’ […] Contact links are a mixture of what sociologists would call ‘strong ties’ and ‘weak ties.’” James Grimmelmann, “Facebook and the social dynamics of privacy [draft version],” (2008), http://works.bepress.com/james_grimmelmann/20/, 5 and 28.

  6. 6.

    danah boyd and Nicole B. Ellison, “Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13 (2007): 211.

  7. 7.

    Ralph Gross and Alessandro Acquisti, Information revelation and privacy in online social networks, (paper presented at WPES’05, Alexandria, Virginia, USA, 2005), 71

  8. 8.

    Ralph Gross and Alessandro Acquisti, Information revelation and privacy in online social networks, (paper presented at WPES’05, Alexandria, Virginia, USA, 2005), 72

  9. 9.

    See for example: Zeynep Tufekci, “Can you see me now? Audience and disclosure regulation in online social network sites,” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 28 (2008), and Alyson L. Young and Anabel Quan-Haase, Information revelation and internet privacy concerns on social network sites: A case study of Facebook, (paper presented at C&T ’09, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA, 25–27 June, 2009)

  10. 10.

    Alessandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross, “Imagined communities: Awareness, information sharing, and privacy on the Facebook,” (paper presented at 6th Workshop on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, Cambridge, UK, 2006), 2

  11. 11.

    James Grimmelmann, “Facebook and the social dynamics of privacy [draft version],” (2008), http://works.bepress.com/james_grimmelmann/20/, 9

  12. 12.

    There are some interesting differences between the level of truthfulness in self-presentations across different social network sites. Research has shown, for instance, that while the overwhelming majority of members use their real name on their Facebook profile (a staggering 94,9% according to Tufekci (Zeynep Tufekci, “Can you see me now? Audience and disclosure regulation in online social network sites,” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 28 (2008)). An even higher number, 99,35%, was found in a 2009 study by Young and Quan-Haase (Alyson L. Young and Anabel Quan-Haase, “Information revelation and internet privacy concerns on social network sites: A case study of Facebook,” (paper presented at C&T ’09, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA, 25-27 June, 2009)). In the above-cited article Tufekci shows that, by contrast, in MySpace a substantial amount of users (38,2%) provide a nickname on their profiles. There are many explanations for such differences. One of the most straightforward ones is the fact that Facebook actively, and quite strictly, discourages the use of fake names, as was made clear by a tell-tale example presented by Grimmelmann: “Facebook applies [its] policy [regarding the ban on the use of fake names] rigorously almost to the point of absurdity. It refused to let the writer R.U. Sirius sign up under that name, even though he’d written six books and hundreds of articles under it and he uses it in everyday life.” (James Grimmelmann, “Facebook and the social dynamics of privacy [draft version],” (2008), http://works.bepress.com/james_grimmelmann/20/, 6). Another explanation could be that users want to avoid the fact that their friends cannot find them online. As boyd writes: “While teens are trying to make parental access more difficult, their choice to obfuscate key identifying information also makes them invisible to their peers. This is not ideal because teens are going online in order to see and be seen by those who might be able to provide validation.” (danah boyd, “Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life,” In MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume, edited by David Buckingham. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008b), 131-132)

  13. 13.

    Alessandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross, “Imagined communities: Awareness, information sharing, and privacy on the Facebook,” (paper presented at 6th Workshop on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, Cambridge, UK, 2006), 2

  14. 14.

    James Grimmelmann, “Facebook and the social dynamics of privacy [draft version],” (2008), http://works.bepress.com/james_grimmelmann/20/, 17

  15. 15.

    James Grimmelmann, “Facebook and the social dynamics of privacy [draft version],” (2008), http://works.bepress.com/james_grimmelmann/20/, 18

  16. 16.

    danah boyd, “Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life,” In MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume, edited by David Buckingham. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008b), 133

  17. 17.

    See for example: Leysia Palen and Paul Dourish, “Unpacking ‘privacy’ for a networked world,” (paper presented at Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Conference 2003, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA, 5-10 April, 2003), and Daniel J. Solove. The future of reputation: Gossip, rumor, and privacy on the Internet. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007)

  18. 18.

    Alessandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross, “Imagined communities: Awareness, information sharing, and privacy on the Facebook,” (paper presented at 6th Workshop on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, Cambridge, UK, 2006), 3

  19. 19.

    Zeynep Tufekci, “Can you see me now? Audience and disclosure regulation in online social network sites,” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 28 (2008), 22, emphasis in the original

  20. 20.

    Zeynep Tufekci, “Can you see me now? Audience and disclosure regulation in online social network sites,” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 28 (2008), 22

  21. 21.

    Erving Goffman. The presentation of self in everyday life. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959)

  22. 22.

    Ann Branaman, “Goffman’s social theory,” In The Goffman reader, edited by Charles C. Lemert and Ann Branaman. (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), xlvi

  23. 23.

    See for example: Joshua Meyrowitz. No sense of place: The impact of electronic media on social behavior. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1985), and Bibi Van den Berg. The situated self: Identity in a world of Ambient Intelligence. (Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2010)

  24. 24.

    Bibi Van den Berg, “Self, script, and situation: Identity in a world of ICTs,” in The future of identity in the information society: Proceedings of the third IFIP WG 9.2, 9.6/11.6, 11.7/FIDIS International Summer School on the Future of Identity in the Information Society, ed. Simone Fischer-Hübner, Penny Duquenoy, Albin Zuccato and Leonardo Martucci. (New York, NY: Springer, 2008), and Bibi Van den Berg. The situated self: Identity in a world of Ambient Intelligence. (Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2010)

  25. 25.

    Erving Goffman. The presentation of self in everyday life. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959), 137

  26. 26.

    Erving Goffman. The presentation of self in everyday life. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959), 137

  27. 27.

    Helen Nissenbaum, “Privacy as contextual integrity,” Washington Law Review 79 (2004), also see Kieron O’Hara and Nigel Shadbolt. The spy in the coffee machine. (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2008), 77 ff.

  28. 28.

    Helen Nissenbaum, “Privacy as contextual integrity,” Washington Law Review 79 (2004): 137.

  29. 29.

    Michael Walzer. Spheres of justice: A defense of pluralism and equality. (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1983)

  30. 30.

    See http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics, last visited 11 January 2011.

  31. 31.

    danah boyd, “Facebook’s privacy trainwreck,” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 14 (2008a)

  32. 32.

    danah boyd, “Facebook’s privacy trainwreck,” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 14 (2008a), 18

  33. 33.

    This applies, for instance, to one’s e-mail address.

  34. 34.

    J. Donath and danah boyd, “Public displays of connection,” BT Technology Journal 22 (2004): 72.

  35. 35.

    James Grimmelmann, “Facebook and the social dynamics of privacy [draft version],” (2008), http://works.bepress.com/james_grimmelmann/20/, 27

  36. 36.

    J. Donath and danah boyd, “Public displays of connection,” BT Technology Journal 22 (2004): 72.

  37. 37.

    Kieron O’Hara and Nigel Shadbolt. The spy in the coffee machine. (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2008), 74

  38. 38.

    See for example: danah boyd, “Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life,” In MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume, edited by David Buckingham. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008b)

  39. 39.

    See for example: Zeynep Tufekci, “Can you see me now? Audience and disclosure regulation in online social network sites,” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 28 (2008)

  40. 40.

    On 21 November 2009, for instance, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation presented a story of a Canadian woman who was on long-term sick leave due to depression. This woman’s health benefits were allegedly terminated after the health insurance company discovered pictures of the woman tanning on a beach and having a good time at a party with strippers on her Facebook page. See http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2009/11/19/quebec-facebook-sick-leave-benefits.html [last accessed 25 November 2009].

  41. 41.

    The Nudge ‘methodology’ consists of: provide iNcentives, Understand mappings, Defaults, Give feedback, Expect error, Structure complex choices

  42. 42.

    Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008)

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van den Berg, B., Leenes, R. (2011). Keeping Up Appearances: Audience Segregation in Social Network Sites. In: Gutwirth, S., Poullet, Y., De Hert, P., Leenes, R. (eds) Computers, Privacy and Data Protection: an Element of Choice. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0641-5_10

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