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Privacy, Reputation, and the Management of Online Communities

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Panel Summary

Reputation management online demands a certain measure of control over the revelation of personal information and its distribution across networks. Yet such control conflicts with values of free expression and many business models. How, then, can the individual interest in reputation and control of personal information be balanced against expressive and market values? This panel will address these issues in the context of recent developments in social networking and personalization technologies.

Speakers

Detailed Description

The pervasiveness of computer mediated networks has triggered renewed interest among privacy scholars in the role of reputation in economic and social communities. As a function of autonomy, identity and relational intimacy, reputation demands a certain measure of control over the selective and contextual revelation of personal information and its distribution across networks. Yet such control conflicts with values of free expression and its significant role in the preservation of autonomy. Moreover, reputation represents a mechanism of trust that facilitates certain types of socially beneficial transactions. In this context, the protection of personal data permits individuals to manipulate their reputation and thus undermines the development of trust to the detriment of the social good. How, then, can the individual interest in reputation and control of personal information be balanced against expressive and market values? This panel will address these issues in the context of high-profile events occurring in the past few months, including the AutoAdmit harassment and defamation lawsuit, the pending sale of online advertising giant DoubleClick to Google, and the emergence of social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook as centralized data collection points and hyper-targeted advertising platforms.

The following controversies are among those that will be discussed:

  • AutoAdmit Harassment and Defamation Lawsuit (and related events): Although online reputation is often viewed as the product of thoughtful feedback of crowds on sites like eBay and Amazon, the past few months have demonstrated the malevolent side to that story. In the late spring and summer, anonymous groups used social networking sites, blogs, and message boards to attack women with lies, offensive photos, and threats.
  • Google’s Acquisition of DoubleClick: In late spring, Google announced that it would acquire DoubleClick for $3.1 billion in cash. DoubleClick, which provides targeted advertising services, places tracking cookies on individual computers that give access to a given computer's Internet Protocol address and a record of sites visited. Privacy advocates warn that if Google centralizes its data system (gathered from users of its search, email and other services) with DoubleClick's data, the company would have unmatched insight into people's online behavior.
  • Facebook News Feed, Social Ads and Beacon: Just months after opening its network to high school students (and eventually to all users of the Internet), Facebook launched its News Feed service – alerting your entire network of friends every time you engage in a Facebook activity such as posting messages or photos. This fall, Facebook unveiled how it would use News Feed to leverage the unprecedented amount of personal data collected by the social network site to create hyper-targeted advertising.