Technological Convergence, Social Media and Privacy

Do you care about your privacy on Facebook? This is one of questions that frame James Grimmelman's [Saving Facebook] (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1262822) (2009) 94 Iowa Law Review 1137. It highlights the problems that result from designing privacy regulations which are removed from real experiences of individual users, the constraints imposed in managing their online interactions and relationships. Grimmelman's focus on social norms and context is key to understand his thesis - it is social norms that very much drive the construction of identity, formation of relationships and engagement with communities (pp. 1149-51). As Jan-Hinrik Schmidt notes in ["Twitter and the Rise of Personal Publics"] Twitter and Society (http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au/2013/11/04/new-book-twitter-and-society/) the social media space is constituted by "technological features and affordances, social and textual relations; and shared rules." (p.4)If one peers 'under the hood' of communication platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, Grimmelman's concerns about shortsighted/reactionary policymaking or reliance on market forces or concepts such as autonomy consent are clearly borne out.He is right - "Recognizing that Facebook’s users are highly engaged but often confused about privacy risks suggests turning the problem around. Instead of focusing on Facebook—trying to dictate when, how, and with whom it shares personal information—we should focus on the users. It’s their decisions to upload information about themselves that set the trouble in motion. The smaller we can make the gap between the privacy they expect and the privacy they get, the fewer bad calls they’ll make." (p. 1195)

Reasonable expectations is a pervasive theme when reflecting on online informational privacy. New technologies not only alter the social dynamics but they also come with challenges - law may not provide the silver bullet to the privacy wrecks, but it serves as a good guide.