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Contextualised Concerns. The Online Privacy Attitudes of Young Adults Michael Dowd August 2010. Presentation structure. Brief summary and critical evaluation of existing research. Outline of research approach. Presentation of interim findings. VOME.

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Contextualised concerns

Contextualised Concerns

The Online Privacy Attitudes of Young Adults

Michael Dowd August 2010

Presentation structure
Presentation structure

  • Brief summary and critical evaluation of existing research.

  • Outline of research approach.

  • Presentation of interim findings.

Contextualised concerns

  • Visualisation and Other Methods of Expression

    • Exploring how people engage with concepts of privacy and consent in online interactions.

    • Collaborative project: The University of Salford, RHUL, Cranfield University, Sunderland City Council and Consult Hyperion.

    • Funded by TSB/EPSRC/ESRC under the EPAC (Ensuring Privacy and Consent) programme.


Survey based research key findings
Survey based research: key findings

  • ‘Determinant factors’:

    • Gender (Hoy and Milne, 2010; Coles-Kemp et al, 2010; Cho et al, 2009; Garbarino & Strahilevitz, 2004; Sheehan, 1999).

    • Age (Cho et al, 2009; Bellman et al, 2004; Nowak & Phelps, 1992).

    • Levels of education (Milne & Gordon, 1994; Wang & Petrison, 1993; Nowak & Phelps, 1992)

    • Levels of internet experience?

  • ‘Privacy paradox’

Qualitative research into social networking sites
Qualitative research into social networking sites

  • Not just Danah Boyd!

    • Sonia Livingstone, Kate Raynes-Goldie, Susannah Stern, Jenny Ryan, Jane Lewis and Anne West…

  • Generation of rich, contextual data:

    • Innovative privacy protective behaviours.

    • Provides a nuanced picture.

  • Shortcomings:

    • More ‘niche’ sites neglected.

    • Cross-contextual comparisons cannot be made.

Research approach
Research approach

  • Sample: Young adults (16-20, born between 1990 and 1994).

  • Method: semi-structured interviews.

    • “…instead of asking abstract questions, or taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ structured approach, you may want to give maximum opportunity for the construction of contextual knowledge by focusing on relevant specifics in each interview […] The point really is that if what you are interested in, ontologically and epistemologically speaking, is for example a social process which operates situationally, then you will need to ask situational rather than abstract questions.” (Mason, 2002: 64).

    • Take place next to a laptop with internet access.

Interim findings
Interim findings

  • Self-confidence:

    • Frank: “I got an ‘A’ in ICT so I know most stuff about computers and the internet”

  • Personal responsibility:

    • Luke: “…it’s just what you get yourself into, what you allow yourself to get into”

  • Deception:

    • Strangers vs. Known parties.

Interim findings1
Interim findings

  • ‘Identity theft’: threat to reputation.

  • Gender issues:

    • Meeting ‘new girls’

      • Frank: “Obviously you’re gonna try and get chatting on to them”

    • Online harassment

      • Julie: “Ah, all the men and stuff adding me all the time”

    • Stereotypes

      • ‘Dirty old men’

      • Vulnerable women


  • Provided outline of research and its relationship with existing literature.

  • Contended that the value of social science in this area is in contributing rich, situated data which can help us understand privacy attitudes in context.

  • Called for more qualitative research into online privacy attitudes: not just into Facebook!

    Thank you for listening!


  • boyd, D. (2007). Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics. In D. Buckingham, ed. Youth, Identity and Digital Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 119–142

  • Cho, H; Rivera-Sanchez, M. and Lim, S.S. (2009) ‘A multinational study on online privacy: global concerns and local responses’ New Media Society 11(3): 395-416

  • Coles-Kemp, L.; Lai, Y. L. and Ford, M. (2010) Privacy on the Internet: Attitudes and Behaviours. A survey by VOME.

  • Garbarino, E. and Strahilevitz, M. (2004). Gender differences in the perceived risk of buying online and the effects of receiving a site recommendation. Journal of Business Research. 57 (1): 768– 775.

  • Hoy, M. G. and Milne, G.(2010) ‘Gender Differences In Privacy-Related Measures For Young Adult Facebook Users’, Journal of Interactive Advertising, 10(2), 28-45.

  • Livingstone, S. (2008). Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: teenagers' use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self-expression. New Media Society, 10(3): 393-411.

  • Mason, J. (2002) Qualitative Researching, London: Sage.

  • Milne, G. and Gordon, M.E. (1994) ‘A Segmentation Study of Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Direct Mail’, Journal of Direct Marketing 8(2): 45–52.

  • Moscardelli, D.M. and Divine, R. (2007). Adolescents' Concern for Privacy When Using the Internet: An Empirical Analysis of Predictors and Relationships With Privacy-Protecting Behaviors. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal 35(3), 232-252.

  • Nowak, G. J. and Phelps, J. (1992). "Understanding Privacy Concerns: An Assessment of Consumers' Information-Related Knowledge and Beliefs," Journal of Direct Marketing, 6(4), 28-39.

  • Raynes-Goldie, K. (2010). Aliases, creeping, and wall cleaning: Understanding privacy in the age of Facebook. First Monday, Volume 15 (1). (Accessed: 1/2/2010).

  • Sheehan, K. B. (1999). An investigation of gender differences in online privacy concerns and resultant behaviors. Journal of Interactive Marketing 13(4): 24–38.

  • Wang, P. and L.A. Petrison (1993) ‘Direct Marketing Activities and Personal Privacy: A Consumer Survey’, Journal of Direct Marketing 7(1): 7–19.