Conference: Privacy in Social Network Sites

Speaking of privacy on social networking sites, the Dutch 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology is holding a 2-day conference later this month on Privacy in Social Network Sites. I know the organizers of this event well, and they are asking precisely the right questions:

Social Network Sites (SNS) have become the number one websites for sharing information, organizing events and getting your ideas out to the world. Recently, SNS have been used to support the American presidential campaigns and to smuggle photos of the natural disaster out of the country of Myanmar. However, the centralized collection, processing and dissemination of such as large amount of identity-relevant information has lead to increased disclosure of sensitive information, identity theft and physical and mental harm. This calls for a thorough consideration of why we should restrain access to our identity-relevant information and how a concept of ‘privacy’ in Social Network Sites could be developed. Keynote speakers are Jeroen van den Hoven, Milton Mueller and Ronald Leenes.

The first question to answer is why it’s important to protect the information that people willfully post on Social Network Sites. Are there moral reasons to constrain the disclosure of this data? Another question is how this disclosure of data creates harm for the users of Social Network Sites. Which activities can be employed by using identity-relevant information found on SNS and what harm do such activities create for users? There might be agreement about how specific activities harm users, but experts certainly don’t agree on how these harmful activities could be minimized. Should we restrict the variety of actions people can pursue on the Internet by regulations or should we instead rely on self-regulation? This will be a central topic of the conference. We will also zoom into the different technologies that can be employed to protect the privacy of users in Social Network Sites. These Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) provide various ways of data protection for the users. To what extent can these technologies be applied to the everconnected world of Social Network Sites?

This conference will deal with a wide range of topics that relate to Social Network Sites, varying from moral reasons to protect privacy to concrete ways to protect users’ privacy.

Unfortunately I cannot attend, but apparently the conference will be streamed in video and available on the Internet. I’ll post links once available.

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