10 Apr

Perceptions of Privacy

I’ve been thinking about how the average web user formulates their conception of privacy.  A lot of people have very personal conversations in "public" online spaces, such as chat rooms and in sites like Myspace, et. al.  Do they have expectations of privacy within these spaces?  If they do, what exactly are those expectations? 

First, I should establish what is normally meant by privacy.  According to Ronald Standler:

Privacy is the expectation that confidential personal information disclosed in a private place will not be disclosed to third parties, when that disclosure would cause either embarrassment or emotional distress to a person of reasonable sensitivities. Information is interpreted broadly to include facts, images (e.g., photographs, videotapes), and disparaging opinions.

OK. But in the context of digital networks, the definition of "private place" is up for grabs.  While most of us would say that any social software platform is not private, it is the case that these systems are designed to cultivate a sense of personalized (thus private) spaces.  I’m not suggesting that they are legally private.  I am suggesting, however, that the perception of privacy cultivated in these online spaces exposes some fundamental problems in the way the law is currently written.  I would argue that these personalized spaces are altering what private space means and therefore forcing a reconsideration of the "reasonable expectation of privacy" concept.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *