Privacy in Anonymous Social Media; Social Construction of Privacy: Reddit Case Study

Sarvepalli, Rajiv, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
JACQUES, RICHARD, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Tian, Yuan, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Ji, Yangfeng, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

In our modern era, privacy has become an invaluable commodity. Many companies view our information as a form of currency. Therefore, we must recognize the value of our own information, but also the amount we give away freely. Many people use anonymous social media and anonymous accounts on sites like Reddit to prevent their information from being misused. These people intend to protect their information behind the anonymity of a username. Privacy itself has constantly changed in definition and must be viewed as a social product because of the modern data-driven world.
In my STS research, I analyzed the perspectives of privacy using Reddit as a case study. Economic players, governments, and individual users all have constructed and shaped opinions on privacy. Additionally, I considered the question of why privacy scandals continue to happen. The economic forces do not seem to stop companies from continuing to exploit data and failing to protect it. The technical project produced a means of providing users with their total information given away. With a large amount of data available for each individual, people cannot easily understand how much personal information is given away. In anonymous social media, this becomes especially relevant since users wish to retain their anonymity. Therefore, the technical project worked to create a tool that provides users with a score for how much information they gave away with respect to location.
The complexity of privacy in our modern era cannot be understated. With each added form of connectivity, new privacy concerns arise in the form of new data. The ethical concerns of privacy remain at hand, but seemingly, little is done about them. Every year, a new privacy scandal happens at a company, and every year, that same company continues to break its records for profits. A potential solution is privacy literacy: providing people with more understanding of the data their giving away and the possible ramifications. My technical project worked to enhance privacy literacy to some degree. Regardless, the very essence of privacy itself has become a more complex issue than previously imagined or expected.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
hierarchal model, privacy, anonymous social media, social media, privacy literacy

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Yuan Tian
STS Advisor: Richard Jacques
Technical Team Members: Lucas Kim

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