Take 1: Recently I was added to a group on GroupMe whose size quickly grew to over 100 members. Naturally, people felt the need to create a more intimate sub-community for sharing information specific to a smaller number of people. Members gave ideas to start a Facebook group. But some did not have Facebook accounts. Others mentioned starting a LinkedIn group for discussing professional endeavors. Yet, LinkedIn was seen as being too formal for free-flowing communication. Should there be mechanisms for sharing and creating communities across platforms? Should there be one platform for all preferred actions? What to do when a platform doesn’t meet privacy and sharing expectations?
Take 2: I used to be friends with my favorite younger cousin on Facebook. My cousin grew up near Atlanta. He created his Facebook account when transitioning from middle school to high school. Late nights out in high school soon turned to late nights out during his first year of college. Since teenage boys don’t necessarily reveal their actions to their mothers, it was natural for his mom to turn to Facebook for help in understanding her son. What she soon found, she did not like. It was the typical partying, perhaps some hints of illegal substance use. Naturally, she approached him about his activities which, of course, resulted in him unfriending her on all social media platforms. Unknowingly I began to make comments about his activities online, thinking she could see his posts. She did not know that he had blocked her and my comments led to myself being blocked as well. When do contexts collapse? Are existing simplified privacy mechanisms simplified enough? When and/or how should third-parties (e.g. parents) have agency over someone’s (e.g. their child’s) information?
Take 3: As I scroll down my Instagram account, I am instantly presented with 5 photos of my friend’s son. The kid is 3 years old and I am being shown cute baby bum pictures and outfits that would be quite embarrassing to him in ~10 years. How will he recover from such photos? Who will have control over the information when he gets older? How can we manage privacy from actions that happened in the past?
Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, GroupMe, LinkedIn –
All are different examples of platforms for sharing information. The above vignettes highlight challenges of existing online social platforms. How can industry professionals and academics begin to solve these problems? Essentially, social networking sites think of the individual as the unit of analysis. However, an individual’s actions online may affect the perceptions, expectations, and privacy of larger groups of people AND these actions may affect people different over time. This problem is one I tried to tackle with other researchers in the Networked Privacy workshop at the ACM conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2015) in Vancouver. In my opinion, I think researchers need to step beyond studying privacy of college students in terms of actions and opinions and delve more into solutions to problems of context collapse and boundary turbulence. Also, incorporating different age groups, non-Western cultures, and people with different abilities into the privacy space is important.
Who will start to address the questions above, both conceptually and technically?
thank you to Michael Dickard, Priya Kumar, and Dr. Anne Marie Piper for their contributions and great ideas during the breakout sessions at the workshop