Academic journal article The Journal of High Technology Law

Prometheus Bound: An Historical Content Analysis of Information Regulation in Facebook

Academic journal article The Journal of High Technology Law

Prometheus Bound: An Historical Content Analysis of Information Regulation in Facebook

Article excerpt

Introduction: Consumer Information in the Digital Innovation Environment

The rise of online social networks has engaged regulators, users' representatives, and social-network intermediaries in a vibrant regulatory dialogue around shifting privacy norms and laws. Driven by competitive market forces, these social-networking online intermediaries have introduced new services and opened privacy barriers to allow greater information flow which, in turn, has created disjunctions between users' desired and achieved levels of privacy. On both individual and collective level, social networks influence the social behavior and discourse. (2) On the one hand, as Julie Cohen explains, surveillance has become privatized and commercialized, overall motivating networked individuals to participate through "gamification." (3) This commercial surveillance environment includes an important characteristic, in which personal information is collected during the course of play, partly to deliver rewards through games, and partly for targeted marketing. (4) Simultaneously, on the other hand, on a collective level, where repeat players act, (5) while regulators and policymakers promote notions of users' trust, (6) information processing industries positioned privacy and innovation as two opposing values on the policy-making debate. (7) Yet, the industry considers innovation in information processing as an expression seeking protection, while promoting a narrative, which tells decision-makers that marginalized regulation is preferred. (8)

Meanwhile, over the years, driven by competitive market forces, information processing industries, and specifically social-networking online intermediaries, have introduced new services and opened privacy barriers to allow greater information flow which, in turn, has created disjunctions between users' desired and achieved levels of privacy. Undoubtedly, one of the most enduring social issues associated with information technologies is privacy. (9) One of the first scholars that looked into the regulation of privacy as information flow was the social psychologist Irwin Altman. (10) According to Alt-man, social interaction is conceived as a continuous "dialect between forces driving people to come together and to move apart." (11) As privacy is an interpersonal bidirectional process moving between two unwanted poles of "intrusion," and "isolation," people implement continually changing levels of desired privacy based on momentary circumstances. (12) In order to achieve privacy balance, Altman claims, people are opening and closing informational boundaries by the use of context-based mechanisms such as verbal cues, non-verbal cues, environmental privacy mechanisms, and norms. (13)

As people continue to seek an optimal level of social interaction, opening and closing their information barriers based on context, they dislike any attempt to deviate in either direction of isolation or intrusion. (14) As a matter of fact, Helen Nissenbaum claims that all life circumstances are influenced by "contextual integrity," which means that all areas of life are governed by norms of information flow. (15) This is notably true for media dominated society, where contexts change on a regular basis, and users can, for instance, suddenly discover they are public figures to their Facebook friends. (16) Yet, moving from the physical to the digital world, verbal and non-verbal cues were "easily" replaced with less "richer" cues such as characters, emoticons, and capital letters. (17) At the same time, the way in which we regulate our privacy through our environment not only became digital, but also more influential. (18)

Clearly, given this influential change in the importance of code regulation, it seems appropriate now to look back, analyze, and evaluate the way in which information practices are regulated. This paper explores how the regulatory system affects information collection practices by examining the conflict of values among stakeholders and subsequent technology changes. …

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