Privacy (and online privacy)

When we started this semester we briefly spoke, among others, about the digital divide, cyber-utopian and cyber-distopian ideas. I indicated then that being aware of the techical requirements, infrastrcture and skills that digital media require will soon bring us into a new discussion about how corporate, institutional and commercial users define and perceive their presence online, their relationship and responsibilities with their (online)  stakeholders and the influence digital media platforms have on these outputs. Privacy is part of that discussion and Anna F.’s lecture on Monday provided an excellet setting for the discussion (Anna’s slides are already up on myBU).

Starting from the idea that privacy is related to “private” she questioned our definition and the boundaries and responsibilities we associate with it – from private actions, to private thougts, to private transactions, to private messages to private data. She expanded then the question to what would privacy mean in an online environment poining out that everything we do while connected to a device and to the internet produces data that can be recorded. This raises further questions about data ownership, the responsibility of data “holders” towards the data producing parties but also towards parties interested in the data (such governments, institutions, for profit or not-for-profit companies). Wikileak’s example (and the trailer below) is one of such diverging views.

Moreover, questions about deletion and whether a full deletion is ever possible in a environment that makes sharing and thus replication extremely easy and that promotes back-up and archiving of data also are important to be asked.

Sony’s data hack show the challenges and risk of sharing and storing data and the reponsibilities the companies have to disclose how data is used and to protest their customers.

To find out how businesses view and define privacy (its limits, the parties involved, their reponsibilities and rights) go read the privacy policies of the social media platforms, websites and services that you use. The policies will also provide insight into how the companies releasing the policies view the internet (as a place of business, as a medium, as a tool…) and how they define their relationship with their users (as providers, as guardians or protectors of their data, as intermediaries…).

(Social media) Policy and guidelines

The increased penetration and use of the interent around the world makes privacy policies necessary, as they are documents that explain rights, responsibilities and expectations of both users and organizations. The higher adoption of social media by businesses also makes discussions about social media views, roles and responsibilities necessary. To be successfully implemented and be relevant to business, social media policies need to have the business’ owners/managers support. Mic Acadam’s guest lecture to last year DCS students provides more detail about that.

As he points out, policies should cover several aspects of the business, its communication and infrastructure. These include disclosure, escalation and consequences as well technology, company time, ownership and expectations. Clear policies, support strategy and also make it While Coca-Cola policy highlights transparency while Yahoo’s focuses on responsibility and liability.

Social media guidelines on the other hand should provide examples and suggestion of good practice. Like the social media audits (which we covered during the previous week), there are various models of social media guidelines, each reflecting the views and objectives that companies issuing them associate with social media. Check out the materials on myBU for more examples.

To start your own policy and discuss about how you would define, plan and implement your digital media work and its effects, try using the Social Policy Generator tool or the Social Media Policy tool.


About Ana ADI

Professor of Public Relations/Corporate Communications @ | Researcher | PR & Social Media Consultant | Fulbrighter

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