FIMS Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 3-30-2013


A great deal of personal information is released in online social network profiles, and this information is increasingly being sought as evidence in criminal, administrative and civil legal proceedings. Determination of the admissibility of social network profile information rests in part on the issue of subjective expectations of privacy: to what extent do online social network participants expect privacy in their social network profiles? This question is examined through a combination of interviews and focus groups. The results suggest that Facebook as a whole is characterized as a space where participants construct and display a produced version of the self to a large and indeterminate social network. The common perspective is that information posted on social network profiles is selected for social broadcast, and further dissemination (beyond the online social network to which information is disclosed) is therefore both acceptable and to be expected. Although they would prefer profile access to be restricted to a broadly defined social network of friends and acquaintances, online social network participants do not in general expect to control the audience for their profiles, and they therefore typically include only information that ‘everyone’ can know in their online profiles. They thus require and exercise control over the content that is associated with their online profiles, and actions that undermine this control run contrary to privacy expectations.