Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Quan-Haase, Anabel


Digital technologies have become enmeshed in everyday life causing the public to become exposed to potential privacy risks through data collection and aggregation practices. Further, the upsurge in use of social networking platforms has also created opportunities for privacy violations through institutional and social surveillance. Employing a qualitative thematic analysis, this study explores how adults (N=101) living in East York, Toronto, navigate privacy through their use of the internet and digital services. Participants expressed feelings of mistrust, loss of control, resignation, and perceived self-unimportance with regards to their digital data. Importantly, others noted their desire and attempts to gain agency when using online services. This study provides support for the rich and developing body of literature on the sociology of resignation; as such, it challenges the notion that digital users are unconcerned about their data online and argues for a re-evaluation of the "informed" and "empowered" actor metaphor at the heart of the privacy paradox debate.

Summary for Lay Audience

With the increased use of digital services and the internet becoming an ever-present phenomenon, concerns have emerged around privacy as related to digital data collection and use of personal data. This study investigates the privacy-related attitudes and behaviours of individuals living in the neighbourhood of East York, Toronto. Results reveal that individuals experienced feelings of loss of control in their use of digital services, and some viewed their digital data as being unimportant or uninteresting. Furthermore, respondents expressed experiencing mistrust towards various sources including other users online, corporations, the government and technological services. Despite the limitations faced in using digital services, users noted their efforts to gain control and exert agency over their personal data. This study supports the emerging literature on the sociology of digital resignation and argues for its inclusion as a theoretical model for understanding how users manage digital and online privacy.