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Throwing it All Away: Community, Data Privacy and False Choices of Web 2.0

Eli Edwards


May 10, 2008

Online privacy has long been a challenge, but the rise of Web 2.0 technologies has made it easier for more people to share personal information about themselves. There is a particular concern that young people who have grown accustomed to baring their private information in the public Internet sphere are especially vulnerable to potential harms now and in the near future. There is even a recurrent meme that posits people today, especially young people immersed in the digital culture, no longer value the right to privacy; the assumption is that between the equal values of community and privacy, Web 2.0 users are choosing community and thus rejecting privacy. However, that perspective follows the typical rational actor model, which leaves people under-informed, over-confident and vulnerable to manipulation from the status quo. The claim that people do not care about privacy is too extreme - humans are, en masse, wired for community and social interaction; however, that does not mean bloggers, social networkers, etc. do not value privacy. On the contrary, when web users realize that their privacy has been unreasonably sacrificed, many fight back, either by attempting to withdraw information or by urging the application developers to add on my privacy-enhancing features. The real problem is not that users don't value privacy, but they are forced to choose between building and keeping social ties online versus protecting their privacy and remaining digitally isolated. And the real solution is to press Web 2.0 developers to build in meaningful opt-in and opt-out choices so that people can manage their personal data and be social online.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: Web 2.0, social networking, privacy, speech, behavioralism

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Date posted: March 31, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Eli, Throwing it All Away: Community, Data Privacy and False Choices of Web 2.0 (May 10, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1370745 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1370745

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Eli Edwards (Contact Author)
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