Why Privacy+Security Matter

Information and communication technologies revolutionized the process through which people interact with friends, strangers, organizations, and institutions. Using mediated channels for communication and relationship maintenance has burgeoned in the last decade, in large part due to the ubiquitous nature of social media and cell phones. Younger users—teenagers, college students, and young adults—have driven many of the trends in online communication, ranging from Facebook to Snapchat to texting. Not only are they typically the biggest consumers of these communication platforms [1,2], but they are often the innovators behind many of the newer technologies.

As these populations live their lives in increasingly networked spaces [3] with boundaries between public and private disclosures often blurred, critical questions regarding online privacy have emerged. In particular, academics and the media have focused on the persistence and visibility of information shared online, one’s audience and effects of context collapse, and the apparent inability to erase one’s online past. The current generation of adolescents and young adults, having grown up with these technological tools, tend to express more blasé attitudes toward privacy and disclosure [4], which can lead to a variety of negative outcomes from disclosure of unwanted content to cyberbullying to loss of employment opportunities [e.g., 5,6].

The White House’s report on big data, released in May 2014, has called for more research on privacy as a social science construct and privacy tools for consumers. [7]. Improved privacy management reduces information leakage and, consequently, the likelihood of personal information getting into the wrong hands. It also has a number of positive relational outcomes, as individuals do not feel hindered in their online interactions by audience-related concerns [8].

Research by this research group aims to provide new insights for young people, parents, seniors, and others about best practices for managing their privacy and security when they interact in networked spaces.


  1. Duggan, M. & Smith, A. (2013). Social media update 2013. Washington DC: Pew Internet Project.
  2. Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Duggan, M., Cortesi, S., & Gasser, U. (2013). Teens and technology 2013. Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project.
  3.  boyd, d. (2010). Social network sites as networked publics: Affordances, dynamics, and implications. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A networked self (pp. 39-58). New York: Routledge.
  4. boyd, d. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  5. Brown, V. R., & Vaughn, E. D. (2011). The writing on the (Facebook) wall: The use of social networking sites in hiring decisions. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26, 219-225.
  6.  Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. (2006). Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyberbullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148–169.
  7. Executive Office of the President. (2014). Big data: Seizing opportunities, preserving values. Washington DC: The White House.
  8.  Vitak, J. (2012). The impact of context collapse and privacy on social network site disclosures. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 56, 451-470.

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