Friday, May 24, 2013

Achieving Privacy in Public

Big Mama is watching you.Achieving Privacy in Public:
danah boyd, an anthropologist
of sorts
, highlights something
interesting
in Pew's new
report
on teens and social media:
Pew's report shows an increase in teens'
willingness to share all sorts of demographic, contact, and
location data. This is precisely the data that makes privacy
advocates anxious. At the same time, their data show that teens are
well-aware of privacy settings and have changed the defaults even
if they don't choose to manage the accessibility of each content
piece they share. They're also deleting friends (74%), deleting
previous posts (59%), blocking people (58%), deleting comments
(53%), detagging themselves (45%), and providing fake info
(26%).



My favorite finding of Pew's is that 58% of teens cloak their
messages either through inside jokes or other obscure references,
with more older teens (62%) engaging in this practice than younger
teens (46%). This is the practice that I've seen significantly rise
since I first started doing work on teens' engagement with social
media. It's the source of what Alice Marwick and I describe as
"social steganography" in our
paper on teen privacy practices
.



While adults are often anxious about shared data that might be used
by government agencies, advertisers, or evil older men, teens are
much more attentive to those who hold immediate power over them --
parents, teachers, college admissions officers, army recruiters,
etc....Most teens aren't worried about strangers; they're worried
about getting in trouble.



Ceci n'est pas une donut.Over the last few years, I've watched as teens
have given up on controlling access to content. It's too hard, too
frustrating, and technology simply can't fix the power issues.
Instead, what they've been doing is focusing on controlling access
to meaning. A comment might look like it means one thing, when in
fact it means something quite different. By cloaking their
accessible content, teens reclaim power over those who they know
who are surveilling them. This practice is still only really
emerging en masse, so I was delighted that Pew could put numbers to
it. I should note that, as Instagram grows, I'm seeing more and
more of this. A picture of a donut may not be about a donut. While
adults worry about how teens' demographic data might be used, teens
are becoming much more savvy at finding ways to encode their
content and achieve privacy in public.