Accepted paper:

Investigating OSN users' privacy strategies with in-situ observation


Andreas Kramm
Andreas Poller (Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology)
Laura Kocksch (Ruhr-University Bochum)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

There is an increasing relevance of online social networks (OSN) like Facebook in everyday life. This phenomenon has fueled many scientific studies with the aim to provide a sound understanding of how users manage their interactional privacy in these digital environments.

Three issues stand out in existing work: first, users' privacy strategies rely only to a limited extent on privacy controls provided by the OSN software. Other means such as self-censorship or using multiple OSN accounts supplement, or replace, the use of OSN privacy controls. Second, our means to investigate privacy practices in such online environments are limited. OSN users interact with the software at varying times throughout the day and through user interfaces difficult to oversee by researchers. On the other hand log data analysis neglects the context of users' practices. Third, the contribution of ethnographic user studies to OSN software design remains controversial.

The paper presents results of an ongoing interdisciplinary study between the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology, Darmstadt, and the Department of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. For mapping the interplay of users and technology, we developed a privacy-friendly tracking software that can be added to the web browser of our participants. This data is combined with data from qualitative methods, e.g. interviews and diary studies. We provide results on how our methodological approach allows deeper insights into users' practices, can tackle above-stated methodological challenges, and may eventually inform software design and development.

panel G1
The development of digital tools in STS and digital humanities: Watching, muddling through and reflexivity