The Privacy Paradox in Social Media

PICNIC '09 Special

With the rise and proliferation of social media in recent years, a dramatic amount of personal data is openly and at first sight rather carelessly being produced and shared by the users of social media. As a result the privacy issue is gaining new momentum. Privacy, however, is a highly controversial issue and concept in this respect. Looking at the privacy issue through the eyes of users of social media, the openness and trust that is characteristic for their interactions through social media, have until now proven to be very productive and empowering to users. The benefits of making themselves transparent, often outweigh a potential loss of privacy. This trend therefore calls for new ways of looking at the privacy issue: a more dynamic, flexible, or maybe even opportunistic approach to data protection and privacy. The underlying key issue here is of course, who ultimately owns these data and has control over them.

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However, this discussion to a certain extent is already outdated, as technological trends - but also developments in fields such as marketing and national security - show that the use of private data for all kinds of purposes has reached levels, that are way beyond the span of control of ordinary citizens/consumers. Allthough users often willingly, produce and share personal information, they usually do not have a clear idea of who accesses their private data. Neither are they aware of the fact that more and more personal data are being collected and shared without them even knowing it (e.g. through RFID, sensors, cloud computing, augmented reality etc.) The possibilities of high level aggregation of data and profiling, smart search and datamining technology, and the rise of the internet of things, may ultimately lead tot such serious concerns about privacy that the balance will overturn and citizens/consumers may loose trust all over. Without trust of its users, the internet as we know it will not survive.

In this workhop this issue will be explored and debated. Some cases of how social data are currently being used and exploited and what this may imply for the privacy issue, are presented. Finally, we will also explore what possibilities the technology itself has to offer for users to increase trust and to be in control.

The Privacy Paradox in Social Media Special will be hosted by TNO.

Valerie Frissen is currently working as senior strategist at TNO, a R&D organisation based in the Netherlands. She has been working for TNO since 1999 in different functions in the field of media and ICT-oriented policy research. She is also a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Faculty of Philosophy, where she holds a chair on ICT and Social Change. Her work focuses on the social impacts of media and ICT.
She is a much invited speaker and expert on issues concerning the future of the information society.