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Obscurity by Design

34 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2013 Last revised: 12 Aug 2017

Woodrow Hartzog

Northeastern University School of Law and College of Computer and Information Science; Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Frederic D. Stutzman

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Information and Library Science (SILS)

Date Written: June 24, 2013

Abstract

Design-based solutions to confront technological privacy threats are becoming popular with regulators. However, these promising solutions have left the full potential of design untapped. With respect to online communication technologies, design-based solutions for privacy remain incomplete because they have yet to successfully address the trickiest aspect of the Internet — social interaction. This Article posits that privacy-protection strategies such as “Privacy by Design” face unique challenges with regard to social software and social technology due to their interactional nature.

This Article proposes that design-based solutions for social technologies benefit from increased attention to user interaction, with a focus on the principles of “obscurity” rather than the expansive and vague concept of “privacy.” The main thesis of this Article is that obscurity is the optimal protection for most online social interactions and, as such, is a natural locus for design-based privacy solutions for social technologies. To that end, this Article develops a model of “obscurity by design” as a means to address the privacy problems inherent in social technologies and the Internet.

Keywords: privacy, obscurity, design, social media, contracts, privacy by design

Suggested Citation

Hartzog, Woodrow and Stutzman, Frederic D., Obscurity by Design (June 24, 2013). 88 Washington Law Review 385 (2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2284583

Woodrow Hartzog (Contact Author)

Northeastern University School of Law and College of Computer and Information Science ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.northeastern.edu/law/faculty/directory/hartzog.html

Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society ( email )

Palo Alto, CA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/profile/woodrow-hartzog

Frederic Stutzman

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Information and Library Science (SILS) ( email )

United States

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