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kottke.org posts about Alice Marwick

Privacy at the margins

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Mar 07, 2018


Privacy and privilege go hand in hand. This collection of scholarly articles in The International Journal of Communication edited by Dr. Alice Marwick and danah boyd takes us to Appalachia, India, Azerbaijan, and among Aboriginal communities. The nine articles are a deep dive into surveillance, coercion, and consent among those typically marginalized.

For many people, privacy is not simply the ability to restrict access to information, but the ability to strategically control a social situation by influencing what information is available to others, how this information is interpreted, and how it will spread. Needless to say, networked technology complicates these dynamics, to the point where most people find themselves constantly negotiating between disclosure, concealment, and connection.

The stark reality is that achieving privacy is especially difficult for those who are marginalized in other areas of life. Parents argue that they have the right to surveil their children “for safety reasons.” Activists who challenge repressive regimes are regularly monitored by state actors. And poor people find themselves forced to provide information in return for basic services. Meanwhile, privacy is increasingly important as data-hungry algorithmic systems are introduced into every part of society, gobbling up data about people and their practices to feed decision-making systems in sectors as varied as criminal justice, advertising, transportation, and news delivery. The privilege to “opt out” of these data-oriented systems is increasingly unattainable.