Losing Face: An Environmental Analysis of Privacy on Facebook

by on Jan.06, 2010, under papers, rfc

Yesterday, I submitted Losing Face: An Environmental Analysis of Privacy on Facebook to a variety of science and technology law reviews. Its abstract is as follows:

This Article contributes to the ongoing conversation about privacy on social network sites. Adopting Facebook as its primary example, it reviews behavioral data and case studies of privacy problems in an attempt to understand user experiences. The Article fills a crucial gap in the literature by conducting the first extensive analysis of the informational and decisional environment of Facebook. Privacy and the environment are inextricably linked: the practice of the former depends upon the dynamics and heuristics of the latter.

The Article argues that there is an environmental element to the Facebook privacy problem. Data flow differently on Facebook than in the physical world, and the architectural heuristics of privacy are absent or misleading. This counterintuitive informational environment waylays privacy practices, opens a gulf between expectation and outcome, causes a crisis in self-presentation, and facilitates what Professor Helen Nissenbaum calls a loss of contextual integrity.

The Article explores possible interventions. It explains how regulatory solutions and market forces are themselves hindered by the the deficient privacy environment of Facebook and can’t solve all of its problems. This Article recommends renovating the design of Facebook to privilege privacy practices and proposes specific interventions drawn from the computer science and behavioral economics literature. It concludes with a message of cautious optimism for the emerging coalition of engineers, academics, and practitioners who care about privacy on networked publics.

The Article is a heavily revised adaptation of the thesis I conducted for Ethan Katsh and Alan Gaitenby at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. If you’ve read my thesis (entitled “Saving Face”; title changed to avoid confusion with James Grimmelmann’s excellent Saving Facebook, recently published in the Iowa Law Review), then you’re familiar with the broad contours of the idea.

Losing Face, however, has been both greatly refined in its argumentation and noticeably reworked in its format (bah Bluebook) over the last year or so. I received invaluable feedback and assistance over the last from many people during this drafting process, including Helen Nissenbaum, researchers and interns at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, but most indispensably James Grimmelmann, who helped me navigate the convoluted and mystified norms and logistics of the publication process.

I’ve posted a copy of the Article here and on BePress for further comment while it wends its merry way through the editorial process. This is a draft only, and should not be used for citation. I’ve endeavored to make all references as clear as possible, though some are not as clear as they will be in the final version because I haven’t nailed down all the infras and supras yet. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about Losing Face, please feel free to drop a comment here or shoot me an email.

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Mapping Banned Books Project

by on Oct.03, 2009, under media, papers

Soon after the WSJ article criticizing the Banned Books Map, I was approached by one of the administrators of the Barnes & Noble Unabashedly Bookish blog community. He wanted me to write about my experiences setting up the map, what I had wanted, and what I thought I could achieve.

The article is now up (and reproduced below the fold). Furthermore, I have a special announcement:

Today, I’m launched the Mapping Banned Books project. As you can read below, the project intends to create a grassroots, ground-up documentation of all the book bans and challenges that go on in the U.S. today. The website is still under heavy development – I’m rolling this out very quickly – but please, check it out, contribute what you can, and help us along the way. I’ll have more in the next few days.

(continue reading…)

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“Saving Face” Revision RFC

by on Jul.28, 2009, under papers, rfc

So I’m rewriting my senior thesis to explore possible publication options in different law reviews. If anyone out there read the original thing and has any feedback I’d be much obliged if you shared it with me.

My revisions are mostly streamlining and refining the argument. I’ve also got to come up with a new name as Grimmelmann’s Facebook and the Social Dynamics of Privacy has been retitled “Saving Facebook” for forthcoming publication in the Iowa Law Review.

Below is excerpted a draft of my new introduction. (continue reading…)

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Things Are Looking Grimm

by on Jun.22, 2009, under general, papers

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Professor James Grimmelmann of New York Law School was kind enough to give my Facebook working paper a shoutout on his blog. In case you haven’t read it, his article on Facebook and the Social Dynamics of Privacy (forthcoming in the Iowa Law Review) is probably the best work done in this field thus far.

He’s a swell guy who has been very helpful orienting me in academic space and teaching me fun new words like desuetude, which is really the point of an intellectual mentor anyway.

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Facebook Usernames and ODR

by on Jun.15, 2009, under papers

Today I coauthored a short essay/blog post entitled What’s In A (User) Name? Facebook’s Contribution to Online Dispute Creation with Professor Ethan Katsh of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution. It’s a short piece which briefly describes some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of the new Facebook Username system from an online dispute resolution perspective.

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