Lurkers, creepers, and virtuous interactivity: From property rights to consent and care as a conceptual basis for privacy concerns and information ethics

Dylan Eric Wittkower


Exchange of personal information online is usually conceptualized according to an economic model that treats personal information as data owned by the persons these data are ‘about.’ This leads to a distinct set of concerns having to do with data ownership, data mining, profits, and exploitation, which do not closely correspond to the concerns about privacy that people actually have. A post-phenomenological perspective, oriented by feminist ethics of care, urges us to figure out how privacy concerns arrive in fundamentally human contexts and to speak to that, rather than trying to convince people to care about privacy as it is juridically conceived and articulated. By considering exchanges of personal information in a human-to-human online informational economy — being friends on social networking sites — we can identify an alternate set of concerns: consent, respect, lurking, and creepiness. I argue that these concerns will provide a better guide to both users and companies about prudence and ethics in information economies than the existing discourse around ‘privacy.’

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