Using the Communication Privacy Management Theory to analyze people’s privacy habits on social media

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The communication privacy management theory is a model that is used to develop an understanding on the manner in which people make decisions regarding disclosing and concealing private information while communicating (Petronio, 2013). Through the theory, it has been possible to maintain privacy on private content on the media; hence, making sure that information does not land on the wrong hands (Petronio, 2013).  The limit of sharing is done in a sensible way that makes all parties satisfied with the extent of information shared on the internet or other related websites (Petronio, 2013). Since people believe they have the right to control their private information, there is need to define privacy rules that lead to proper sharing and minimal access to private information with no permission. The social media is one of the major platforms that is prone to breaching of private information of an individual in various ways such as sharing private content. In this regard, this review will embark on using the communication privacy management theory to analyze people’s privacy habits on social media.

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As seen in the research conducted by Chennamaneni & Taneja (2015) social media websites are used by various indivaduals for various purposes such as getting new friends as well as reconnecting with new ones. Others maintain their relationships through social media, while others create events and pass time at the same time. However, all these activities are prone to breaching of private information; therefore, the need to apply the communication privacy theory that defines ownership of information on the different sites and the extent of access that other parties can get. From the study of Chennamaneni & Taneja (2015), it is evident that 240 respondents that use Facebook as their social media of choice indicated that their privacy management of the content shared is influenced by the extent of disclosure of information they post.

Nguyen, Bin & Campbell (2012) also opine that through the use of social media, so many indivaduals engage in many activities that end up exposing excessive information about their personal lives. This is because they have integrated the use of social media in majority of their daily activities such as advertisements and linking up with their friends amongst other reasons. Through the social media sites, it is possible to tell the age of the person in question, their birthday date, work, their favorites, common friends and their physical appearance. Unlike the traditional modes of communication where one could read other aspects of communication such as non-verbal cues and even maintain privacy as Walther et al (2008) write, social media has predisposed many individuals to many self-disclosures. The same can be borrowed from Gibbs, Ellison & Lai (2011) who opine that such risks of indivaduals having their information accessed by unauthorized third parties limits the chances that individuals will enjoy their experience of using social media sites like Facebook.

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As far as the theory is concerned, Chennamaneni & Taneja’s (2015) research highlights that the use of Facebook presents a case where self-disclosure is defined as a process where an individual’s information is revealed in a way that opposes the individual will to have this information publicized. This then makes such information shared on Facebook and other sites as co-owned information. The theory explains that such kinds of sharing can be referred to as overlapping that can only be solved through coming up with a privacy boundary that minimizes the risks that an individual is exposed to while sharing information and maximizes the rewards that may accrue from participation in co-ownership (Thompson, 2011).

The same argument can be borrowed from the research conducted by Child, Pearson & Petronio (2009) who explain that through the communication privacy theory, an individual the boundaries that define co-ownership of information on social media sites are defined through the co-owners having the right contain or release the acquired information to other parties. It is also possible to decide who accesses the information.

On another note, Child, Haridakis & Petronio (2012) explain that people’s behavior as far as sharing information is concerned vary. Some are planners, others are protectors of their information, others self-centered and others unconcerned. However, regardless of the nature of the bloggers and users of the social media sites, their motives must be driven by privacy rules as per the communication privacy mamangemnt theory. The authors emphasize the need to explore the different variations that come into play as far as regulation of privacy is concerned.  This can be done in the course of blogging, before blogging and after the entire activity (Child, Haridakis & Petronio, 2012). It is expected that this kind of regulation will regulate the feelings that may result from emotions that arise unwarranted sharing of information to third parties. It is also expected that personal information will be protected and the fear of retribution as Child, Haridakis & Petronio (2012) explain, will be greatly minimized.

To validate these arguments, Chennamaneni & Taneja’s (2015) findings explain that out the respondents interviewed on their use of Facebook and having their information shared, users that were given the chance to have high boundary permeability were more likely to disclose information unlike their counterparts who had low permeability. In the event that these users were assured of their boundary ownership, they tended to share more information on their web pages, in as much it seemed private to them. This then defines that, an increase in high boundary permeability and ownership leads to high levels of disclosure, as far as the communication privacy management theory is concerned.

Despite the fact that many people may be highly disclosive, their ability to share information may be hampered by the fact that they feel threatened by unauthorized access to information. Hollenbaugh (2010) brings out the thought that social media sites may be very useful to many people such as bloggers who use these sites to organize their thoughts. With such thoughts in mind, it is of essence to provide assurance to such bloggers on the safety of the information they share on such sites, especially if this information is considered private and was not to be accessed by close family members and friends (Hollenbaugh, 2010).

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Conclusively, these sentiments bring out the idea that user needs on social sites such as Facebook and other blogs need to be guided by privacy rules as stipulated in the aforementioned theory. It is the responsibility of all key players to ensure that confidentiality is maintained in such sites if their usage has to be popularized by its users, and the specific goals of the sites met. There are also high chances that negative effects of unauthorized self-disclosures will be witnessed on social media sites, if all these rules are followed.

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  1. Chennamaneni, A. & Taneja, A. (2015). Communication Privacy Management and Self-Disclosure on Social Media – A Case of Facebook Full paper. Twenty-first Americas Conference on Information Systems, 1-11.
  2. Child, J. T., Haridakis, P. M., & Petronio, S. (2012). Blogging privacy rule orientations, privacy management, and content deletion practices: The variability of online privacy management activity at different stages of social media use. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(5), 1859-1872.
  3. Child, J. T., Pearson, J. C., & Petronio, S. (2009). Blogging, communication, and privacy management: Development of the blogging privacy management measure. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60, 2079-2094.
  4. Gibbs, J. L., Ellison, N. B., & Lai, C. -H. (2011). First comes love, then comes Google: An investigation of uncertainty reduction strategies and self-disclosure in online dating. Communication Research, 38 (1), 70-100.
  5. Hollenbaugh, E. E. (2010). Personal journal bloggers: Profiles of disclosiveness. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 1657-1666.
  6. Nguyen, M., Bin, Y. S., & Campbell, A. (2012). Comparing online and offline self-disclosure: A systematic review. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 15 (2), 103-111.
  7. Petronio, S. (2013). Brief Status Report on Communication Privacy Management Theory. Journal of Family Communication, 13,6-14.
  8. Thompson, J. (2011). Communication privacy management in college athletics: Exploring privacy dilemmas in the athletic/academic advisor student-athlete interpersonal relationship. Journal of Sport Administration & Supervision 3(1), 44-60.
  9. Walther, J. B., Van Der Heide, B., Kim, S. Y., Westerman, D., & Tong, S. T. (2008). The role of friends’ appearance and behavior on evaluations of individuals on Facebook: Are we known by the company we keep? Human communication research, 34, 28-49.
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