danah boyd '00, Microsoft Research

Privacy, Ethics, and Social Media: Understanding What You Think You See

As people engage with social media, they produce massive quantities of networked data. The proliferation of available data has enticed computer scientists, social scientists, and others interested in data mining. Yet, the practices surrounding "Big Data" research raise serious ethical and privacy questions. Who should be able to use this data? For what purposes? And what does this data mean anyhow?

To justify arbitrary usage of found data, many people point to the idea that privacy norms have radically changed, especially when it comes to youth. The implication is that participation in public networks formed through social media like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram indicates a rejection of privacy. Yet, just because youth want to participate in public life - or even in acts of publicity - doesn't mean that they are looking to have their life under a microscope. As a result, many teens develop innovative strategies to achieve privacy, muddling the data produced by social media.

Drawing on ethnographic work with American youth, this talk will examine how young people understand privacy, the strategies they take to achieve privacy in networked publics, and how their practices challenge what it is that we think we see.


danah boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She is also the founder and president of a new think/do tank called the Data & Society Research Institute. Her research examines the intersection of technology and society. Currently, she's focused on research questions related to "big data", privacy and publicity, and teen culture. Her 2014 book - "It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens" - has received widespread praise from scholars, parents, and journalists.