Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Contextual Approach to Privacy Online

Thesis and Main Topic:
            This article discusses the idea of privacy policies and how they can be improved across the internet. Currently, the most common type of privacy policy is “notice and consent,” which is a flawed system. It assumes that people go into online situations knowing the policies and are willing to submit to them, when in reality they rarely have all the information, or the desire to read a long, jargon-filled policy. The article goes on to suggest that the internet is “radically heterogeneous” and “deeply integrated” into our social lives. This prevents us from being able to have a “one-size-fits-all” or a contractual commercial model for privacy. Oftentimes, people are not even aware what information about them is being gathered on the internet, how it is being used, or what control they have over this use. It is what Nissenbaum calls the “transparency paradox.”
            She argues that there should be a greater emphasis on the “context-specific substantive norms” surrounding information flows which would be able to control the data that can be collected, such as the desire of a user to delete all of their data. She also believes there should also be regulators, such as the FTC and Commerce Department, to enforce these norms. She argues for a commitment to the core democratic values of freedom or privacy and “moral imperative,” as opposed to technological values.  
Background Information:
            Helen Nissenbaum is a professor of Media, Culture and Communication and the Director of the Information Law Institute at New York University. She has written several books. This article was published in Daedalus, the journal of American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. This journal published by MIT Press provides multidisciplinary articles that relate to topics that are central to American life. As it was published in 2011, it is post-web and post-google. It even mentions many very relevant websites and social media networks, such as Wikipedia and Facebook.
            Given the nature of this journal, I would say that the audience for this article is professionals and scholars as well as those interested in things related to the Academy of Arts and Sciences, which could include the general public.

            Though I had some trouble finding reviews of the article, I found it referenced many times. It had been used in citations, and I found some summaries and explanations that other people had done based on the concepts.
            However, I found an Article Snapshot put out by TAP (link provided below) and they had this great quote that I think sums up the goals of this article and changes that need to be made to privacy policies in general:
“Policymakers should extend already familiar social values to analogous practices on the Net, and should develop norms based on the appropriate flow of information for the diverse aspects of life online.”--TAP Article Snapshot

Additional Summary Information: Article Snapshot by TAP (Technology Academics Policy). (2014). Retrieved from:,-A.aspx

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