UNDER THE WATCHFUL EYE: USERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF ONLINE PRIVACY AND SURVEILLANCE
This project seeks to contribute to the question, “How do internet users navigate data privacy in a digitally surveilled online world?” I augment this ongoing discussion by examining the perceptions and practices concerning privacy and self-representation in digital spaces among young adults, 18-22. This qualitative work utilizes in-depth interviews of college students in the United States to collect both behavioral and attitudinal patterns. Specifically, I consider the impact of the strategic interventions of corporate and governmental platforms to collect, distribute, and utilize individual level data on research participants’ information consumption, individual identity representation, and group affiliation. A preliminary analysis of the data finds participants engage in narrative rationalizations to help them navigate the cultural expectations of online engagement within a surveilled environment. Patterns of strategic self-representation are shaped by such rationalizations and justifications, including a fundamental shift in what the concept "privacy" means in an online world.