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Information  2011 

An Alternative View of Privacy on Facebook

DOI: 10.3390/info2010140

Keywords: Facebook, social networking sites, political economy, privacy, surveillance, capitalism

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Abstract:

The predominant analysis of privacy on Facebook focuses on personal information revelation. This paper is critical of this kind of research and introduces an alternative analytical framework for studying privacy on Facebook, social networking sites and web 2.0. This framework is connecting the phenomenon of online privacy to the political economy of capitalism—a focus that has thus far been rather neglected in research literature about Internet and web 2.0 privacy. Liberal privacy philosophy tends to ignore the political economy of privacy in capitalism that can mask socio-economic inequality and protect capital and the rich from public accountability. Facebook is in this paper analyzed with the help of an approach, in which privacy for dominant groups, in regard to the ability of keeping wealth and power secret from the public, is seen as problematic, whereas privacy at the bottom of the power pyramid for consumers and normal citizens is seen as a protection from dominant interests. Facebook’s privacy concept is based on an understanding that stresses self-regulation and on an individualistic understanding of privacy. The theoretical analysis of the political economy of privacy on Facebook in this paper is based on the political theories of Karl Marx, Hannah Arendt and Jürgen Habermas. Based on the political economist Dallas Smythe’s concept of audience commodification, the process of prosumer commodification on Facebook is analyzed. The political economy of privacy on Facebook is analyzed with the help of a theory of drives that is grounded in Herbert Marcuse’s interpretation of Sigmund Freud, which allows to analyze Facebook based on the concept of play labor (= the convergence of play and labor).

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