How The Internet Impacts Individual Privacy

Read Complete Research Material

How the internet impacts individual privacy


The Internet forms a part of many people's daily life, from doing the grocery shop, communicating with friends and relatives, through to conducting specialist research, teaching and working. The increased use of the Internet, together with rapid advances in technology, has changed the way in which information about users is gathered, stored and exchanged. Accordingly, concerns about the privacy of Internet users have grown in importance. Academic research and press articles about Internet users' privacy concerns and behaviours appear regularly (e.g. Klein, 2004; Vise, 2005). However, privacy is a changeable concept that encompasses a variety of meanings.

What is privacy?

There have been many attempts to define privacy. In a legal context, privacy is largely synonymous with a 'right to be let alone' .Others have argued that privacy is only the right to prevent the disclosure of personal information to others (e.g. Westin, 1967). Within the psychological literature, Westin's (1967) and Altman's (1975) theories of privacy both feature prominently. Since these earlier theories, many researchers have referred to the difficulties involved in trying to produce a definition (e.g. Burgoon et al., 1989) and despite various attempts to create a synthesis of existing literature (e.g. Parent, 1983; Schoeman, 1984) a unified, single account of privacy has yet to emerge.

This difficulty in producing a single definition of privacy has resulted in multidimensional approaches to defining it. For example, Burgoon et al. (1989) distinguish four dimensions of privacy and define it using these dimensions as “the ability to control and limit physical, interactional, psychological and informational access to the self or one's group” (Burgoon et al., 1989, p. 132). DeCew (1997) also reflects the multidimensional nature of privacy in her definition which consists of three dimensions: Informational, accessibility and expressive privacy.

Technology and the Internet pose unique privacy issues that differ from those previously addressed by privacy research (e.g. Smith et al., 1996). For instance, when doing the grocery shopping online, users may be concerned about whether a retailer stores information about their purchases, and whether this information may be sold to third parties who will then send them unwanted mail. In particular, the more traditional ways of understanding and defining privacy do not account for the unique problems technology has introduced (Solove, 2004). Technology and the Internet requires us to rethink the traditional definitions of privacy: “Technology creates privacy issues that appear to fall outside the bounds of our traditional analysis…we do need to sharpen and deepen our understanding of traditional concerns regarding privacy in order to respond to these new situations” (Austin, 2003, p. 164). For the purposes of this paper, we will assume a multidimensional view of privacy.

Privacy concerns

Central to the definition of privacy is the issue of privacy concern (Westin, 1967). Over the recent years, the concept of privacy concern has been regularly applied to the Internet (e.g. Cranor, 1999) and there have been reports that offline privacy concerns appear to be magnified online (Privacy Knowledge Base, 2005).

Numerous studies have consistently concluded that the overwhelming majority of people ...
Related Ads