Contextual Gaps: Privacy Issues on Facebook
37 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2009 Last revised: 28 Feb 2014
Date Written: June 29, 2009
Social networking sites like Facebook are rapidly gaining in popularity. At the same time, they seem to present significant privacy issues for their users. We analyze two of Facebooks’s more recent features, Application and News Feed, from the perspective enabled by Helen Nissenbaum’s treatment of privacy as “contextual integrity.” Offline, privacy is mediated by highly granular social contexts. Online contexts, including social networking sites, lack much of this granularity. These contextual gaps are at the root of many of the sites’ privacy issues. Application, which nearly invisibly shares not just a users’, but a user’s friends’ information with third parties, clearly violates standard norms of information flow. News Feed is a more complex case, because it involves not just questions of privacy, but also of program interface and of the meaning of “friendship” online. In both cases, many of the privacy issues on Facebook are primarily design issues, which could be ameliorated by an interface that made the flows of information more transparent to users.
Keywords: Internet, privacy, contextual integrity, social networking, Facebook
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