All Title Author
Keywords Abstract

Information  2011 

The Online Construction of Personal Identity Through Trust and Privacy

DOI: 10.3390/info2040594

Keywords: trust, privacy, personal identity, social networks, informational norms, contextual integrity, accountability, offline/online realities

Full-Text   Cite this paper   Add to My Lib


Constructing a personal identity is an activity much more complex than elaborating a series of online profiles, which are only digital hints of the Self. The construction of our personal identity is a context-mediated activity. Our hypothesis is that young people are enabled, as digital natives and social network users, to co-construct the “context of communication” in which their narrative identities will be interpreted and understood. In particular, the aim of this paper is to show that such “context of communication”, which can be seen as the hermeneutical counterpart of the “networked publics” elaborated by Danah Boyd, emerges out of the tension between trust and privacy. In other terms, it is, on the one hand, the outcome of a web of trustful relations and, on the other, the framework in which the informational norms regulating teens’ expectations of privacy protection are set and evaluated. However, these expectations can be frustrated, since the information produced in such contexts can be disembedded and re-contextualized across time. The general and widespread use of information technology is, in fact, challenging our traditional way of thinking about the world and our identities in terms of stable and durable structures; they are reconstituted, instead, into novel forms.


[1]  Floridi, L. A look into the future impact of ICT on our lives. Inf. Soc. 2007, 23, 59–64.
[2]  Dey, A.K. Understanding and using context. Pers. Ubiquitous Comput. J. 2001, 5, pp. 4–7. Available online: (accessed on 3 August 2011).
[3]  Floridi, L. Information Ethics, its Nature and Scope. In Moral Philosophy and Information Technology; van den Hoven, J., Weckert, J., Eds.; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 2008; pp. 40–65.
[4]  Floridi, L. The method of levels of abstraction. Minds Mach. 2008, 18, 303–329.
[5]  Durante, M. Re-designing the Role of Law in the Information Society: Mediating between the Real and the Virtual. In Law and Technology. Looking into the Future; Fernandez-Barrera, M., Gomes de Andrade, N., de Filippi, P., de Azevedo Cunha, M., Sartor, G., Casanovas, P., Eds.; European Press Academic Publishing: Firenze, Italy, 2009; pp. 31–50.
[6]  Sartor, G. Privacy, Reputation and Trust: Some Implications for Data Protection. EUI Working Paper; Series Law 2006/4; European University Institute, 2006. 2006. Available online: (accessed on 3 August 2011).
[7]  Lévinas, E. Totalité et infini. Essai sur l'extériorité; M. Nijhoff: The Hague, The Netherland, 1961.
[8]  Gambetta, D. Trust; Basil Blackwell: Oxford, UK, 1990.
[9]  Luhmann, N. Trust and Power; John Wiley & Sons: New York, NY, USA, 1979; pp. 1–103.
[10]  Durante, M. What Model of Trust for Networked Cooperation? Online Social Trust in the Production of Common Goods (Knowledge Sharing). In Living, Working and Learning Beyond Technology; Bynum, T.W., Calzarossa, M., de Lotto, I., Rogerson, S., Eds.; University of Pavia: Mantua, Italy, 2008; pp. 211–223.
[11]  Gadamer, H.G. Truth and Method [1960]; The Seabury Press: New York, NY, USA, 1975.
[12]  Castelfranchi, C.; Falcone, R. Social Trust: Cognitive Anatomy, Social Importance, Quantification and Dynamics. Proceedings of the first Workshop on Deception, Fraud and Trust in Agent Societies, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, USA, 9–13 May 1998; pp. 35–49.
[13]  Castelfranchi, C.; Falcone, R. Trust Theory. 2007. Available online: (accessed on 3 August 2011).
[14]  Castelfranchi, C.; Falcone, R. Socio-Cognitive Model of Trust: Basic Ingredients. 2008. Available online: (accessed on 3 August 2011).
[15]  Wiener, N. Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine; The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 1948.
[16]  Durante, M. Rethinking Human Identity in the Age of Autonomic Computing: The Philosophical Idea of the Trace. In The Philosophy of Law Meets the Philosophy of Technology: Autonomic Computing and Transformations of Human Agency; Hildebrandt, M., Rouvroy, A., Eds.; Routledge: London, UK, 2011; pp. 85–103.
[17]  Heidegger, M. Being and Time [1927]; Harper: London, UK, 2008.
[18]  Foucault, M. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977; Gordon, C., Ed.; Pantheon: New York, NY, USA, 1980.
[19]  Foucault, M. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences; Vintage: New York, NY USA, 1994.
[20]  Kephart, J.O.; Chess, D.M. The Vision of Autonomic Computing. Manifesto; IEEE Society: Washington, DC, USA, 2003. Available online: (accessed on 3 August 2011).
[21]  Lyon, D. Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life; Open University Press: Buckingham, UK, 2001.
[22]  Rouvroy, A. Governmentality in an Age of Autonomic Computing: Technology, Virtuality and Utopia. In The Philosophy of Law Meets the Philosophy of Technology: Autonomic Computing and Transformations of Human Agency; Hildebrandt, M., Rouvroy, A., Eds.; Routledge: Oxford, UK, 2011. (forthcoming).
[23]  Castells, M. Communication Power; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2009.
[24]  Durante, M. Perché l'attuale discorso politico-pubblico fa leva sulla paura? Filos. Polit. 2010, 1, 49–70.
[25]  Virilio, P. Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology; Columbia University Press: New York, NY, USA, 1986.
[26]  Fukuyama, F. The End of History and the Last Man; Free Press: New York, NY, USA, 2006.
[27]  Momigliano, A. The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 1992.
[28]  Ricoeur, P. Soi-même Comme un Autre; Seuil: Paris, France, 1996.
[29]  Ricoeur, P. Parcours de la reconnaissance; Editions Stock: Paris, France, 2004.
[30]  Davidson, D. Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2001.
[31]  Lévinas, E. Autrement qu'être ou au-delà de l'essence; M. Nijhoff: The Hague, The Netherlands, 1974.
[32]  Lévinas, E. Entre nous. Essai sur le Penser-à-l'autre; Le livre de poche: Paris, France, 1998.
[33]  Kristeva, J. Strangers to Ourselves; Columbia University Press: New York, NY, USA, 1994.
[34]  Mathieu, V. Privacy e Dignità Dell'uomo. Una Teoria Della Persona; Giappichelli: Torino, Italy, 2004.
[35]  Ihde, D. Postphenomenology—Again? In Working Paper n. 3; The Centre for STS Studies: Aarhus, Denmark, 2003.
[36]  Boyd, D. Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications. In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites; Papacharissi, Z., Ed.; Routledge: London, UK, 2010; pp. 39–58.
[37]  Lenhart, A.; Madden, M. Teens, Privacy and Online Social Networks; Pew Internet and American Life Project: Wasghinton, DC, USA, 2007.
[38]  Lwin, M.O.; Stanaland, A.J.; Miyazaki, A.D. Protecting children's privacy online: How parental mediation strategies affect website safeguard effectiveness. J. Retail. 2008, 84, 205–217.
[39]  Steeves, V.; Webster, C. Closing the barn door: The effect of parental supervision on Canadian children's online privacy. Bull. Sci. Technol. Soc. 2008, 28, 4–19.
[40]  Shirky, C. Here Comes Everybody. The Power of Organizing without Organizations; Penguin: New York, NY, USA, 2008.
[41]  Boyd, D. Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics. In Youth, Identity and Digital Media; Buckingham, D., Ed.; MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2007; pp. 119–142.
[42]  Higgins, E. Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect. Psychol. Rev. 1987, 94, 319–340.
[43]  Marwick, A.E.; Diaz, D.M.; Palfrey, J. Youth, privacy and reputation (literature review). Berkman Center Intern. Soc. Res. Publ. Ser. 2010, 5. Available online: (accessed on 3 August 2011).
[44]  Hinduja, S.; Patchin, J.W. Personal information of adolescents on the Internet: A quantitative content analysis of MySpace. J. Adolesc. 2008, 31, 125–146.
[45]  Kallinikos, J. The Consequences of Information. Institutional Implications of Technological Change; Edward Elgar: Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, MA, USA, 2006.
[46]  Nissenbaum, H. Will Security Enhance Trust Online, or Supplant It? In Trust and Distrust Within Organizations: Emerging Perspectives, Enduring Questions; Kramer, R., Cook, K., Eds.; Russel Sage Publications: New York, NY, USA, 2004; pp. 155–188.
[47]  Christofides, E.; Muise, A.; Desmarais, S. Information disclosure and control on facebook: Are they two sides of the same coin or two different processes? Cyberpsychol. Behav. 2009, 12, 341–345.
[48]  Tufecky, Z. Can you see me now? Audience and disclosure regulation in online social networks sites. Bull. Sci. Technol. Soc. 2008, 28, 20–32.
[49]  Debatin, B.; Lovejoy, J.P.; Horn, A.K.; Hughes, B.N. Facebook and online privacy: Attitudes, behaviors, and unintended consequences. J. Comput. Mediat. Commun. 2009, 15, 83–108.
[50]  Valkenburg, P.M.; Peter, J. The Effect of instant messaging on the quality of adolescents' existing friendships: A longitudinal study. J. Commun. 2009, 59, 79–97.
[51]  Solove, D.J. The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet; Yale University Press: New Haven, CT, USA, 2007.
[52]  Ciocchetti, C. E-Commerce and information privacy: Privacy policies as personal information protectors. Am. Bus. Law J. 2007, 44, 55–126.
[53]  Palfrey, J.; Gasser, U. Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives; Basic Books: New York, NY, USA, 2008.
[54]  Barnes, S. A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday, 2006, 11. Available online: (accessed on 3 August 2011).
[55]  Herring, S.C. Questioning the Generational Divide: Technological Exoticism and Adult Construction of Online Youth Identity. In Youth, Identity and Digital Media; Buckingham, D., Ed.; MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2007; pp. 71–94.
[56]  Spanbauer, S. Safeguard your reputation while socially networking. PC World 2006, 24, 152–154.
[57]  Haidt, J. The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychol. Rev. 2001, 108, 814–834.
[58]  Nissenbaum, H. Privacy as contextual integrity. Wash. Law Rev. 2004, 79, 119–158.
[59]  Floridi, L. The ontological interpretation of informational privacy. Ethics Inf. Technol. 2005, 7, 185–200.
[60]  Palfrey, J. The public and the private at the United States border with cyberspace. Miss. Law J. 2008, 78, 241–294.
[61]  Youn, S. Determinants of online privacy concern and its influence on privacy protection behaviors among young adolescents. J. Consum. Aff. 2009, 43, 389–418.
[62]  Moor, J. What is Computer Ethics? In Computers & Ethics; Ward-Bynum, T., Ed.; Blackwell Publisher: Malden, MA, USA, 1985; pp. 266–275.


comments powered by Disqus