Privacy of the individual in the global village of the World Wide Web (1st Post)   1 comment

Posted at 1:29 am in Psychology,Sociology

Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively (as defined in Wikipedia). In other words, the individual has the ability to decide what is private, i.e. belongs only to him and what is public, i.e. is open to others as well.
However, in practice preserving one’s privacy or private information is not an easy task. In addition to this, in many cases the boundaries between private and public are obscure; especially on the Web, privacy is an area of controversy.
Nowadays, as people post their personal data online for various reasons (in social networking sites, blogs, electronic purchases etc.), many are concerned about who can control/access their data after these are exposed online. On the other hand, a significant number of people, especially younger people, are quite confident about posting their data online and feel no threats regarding their privacy; some of them are also ignorant of the possible threats. A privacy paradox emerges, as many people talk about intrusion of their privacy online, yet nobody actually takes action against it.
Numerous questions regarding privacy arise, such as which are the boundaries of privacy, how important is online privacy, how much information should people post online, how much information do organisations and governments actually need etc.
From a social standpoint, the Web is a “global village”, a very large social network, where anyone has the ability to access a great deal of information. This “global village” is beyond the boundaries of a specific group or nation, but extends itself worldwide. That means that each individual does not anymore belong to a small town or village; instead the Web contributes to bringing people from different backgrounds closer.
Since invasion of privacy is a common phenomenon on the Web, it affects global society directly.
However, different nations and cultures may have different opinions on what is public and what is private. Especially, eastern societies, which are more conservative, may have more strict opinions on certain privacy matters. Significantly, people who belong to some social/religious groups or are socially isolated for some reason, may be more vulnerable in terms of privacy.
Many are of the opinion that with the appearance of social networking sites, privacy is not anymore a social norm. Is this actually true? Should we stop believing that some information just belongs to us, but is open to the public instead?

From a psychological standpoint, people behave differently during their online interactions than during their offline interactions and something that they would consider public in the offline world, they may regard it as private in the offline world or vice versa. Of great interest are also topics such as the reasons why some people post their intimate thoughts or experiences online without thinking about the consequences and the way people manage or experiment with their online identities. Many people adopt an online persona, which might be very different than their actual self. This online role playing game, may be helpful to some (for instance to teenagers, who are at the stage of establishing their identity), but it might provoke privacy breaches, when malicious users try to hide themselves behind a mask. In the past, there have been many cases where people with malicious motives have approached others online (especially younger people).
To sum up, all the above mentioned are some initial thoughts on approaching the matter of privacy on the World Wide Web and are definitely going to be enriched and altered after thorough research. The list given below contains a number of books taken from these two disciplines that may be helpful in the analysis of the concept of privacy.

Reading List:

A. Sociology
• Global Sociology by R. Cohen, P. Kennedy 2nd Edition (2007)
• Social Divisions by G. Payne 2nd Edition (2007)
• Introductory Sociology by T.Bilton et al. 4th Edition (2002)
• Sociology by A. Giddens 6th Edition (2009)
• Sociology, Themes and Perspectives by Haralambos and Holborn 7th Edition (2008)
• The rise of the network society by M. Castells Volume 1 2nd Edition (2000)
• The power of Identity by M. Castells Volume 2 2nd Edition (2004)
• The Internet Galaxy by M. Castells (2001)
• Computerization and Controversy: Value Conflicts and Social Choices by R. Kling 2nd Edition
• Social Identity and Social Cognition by D. Abrams (1999)
• Born Digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives by J. Palfrey (2008)
• Understanding Social Problems: Issues on Social Policy by M. May (2001)

B. Psychology
• Psychology by G. Martin et al. 3rd European Edition (2007)
• The Psychology of the Internet by P. Wallace (1999)
• Introduction to Social Psychology by R. Lippa (1999)
• Psychology – The Science of Mind and Behaviour by P. Gross 5th Edition (2005)

Written by az4g09 on February 20th, 2010

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One Response to 'Privacy of the individual in the global village of the World Wide Web (1st Post)'

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  1. Some quite wide reading here in terms of levels of difficulty – bear in mind that Castells is more advanced/theoretical than the introductory texts. It will be interesting to see what you think of him re: Identity and whether this helps you understand privacy.
    You are already reading around your chosen disciplines – if you can get a copy of Bauman Z, Thinking Sociologically from the library you may want to look at his very easy to read chapters on ‘Strangers’ and ‘Us and Them’ – quite chatty style – might give you the micro level sociological view to compare to the psychology you are reading.

    Catherine Pope

    12 Mar 10 at 5:28 pm

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