Social Networking Sites:  A Surveillance Studies Primer Daniel Trottier – PhD Candidate Department of Sociology Queen’s Un...
Purpose / Disclaimer <ul><li>In this brief presentation, I will introduce SNS’s from a surveillance studies perspective, h...
Outline: In the next 9 minutes, I will… <ul><li>Highlight Facebook’s relevance </li></ul><ul><li>Introduce surveillance st...
<ul><li>Why Study Facebook: </li></ul><ul><li>Recent Controversy & Popularity </li></ul><ul><li>Sept. 2006: Facebook intro...
<ul><li>Why Study Facebook: </li></ul><ul><li>Recent Controversy & Popularity </li></ul><ul><li>Since then, Facebook’s pop...
<ul><li>Introducing Surveillance Studies </li></ul><ul><li>Surveillance definition: To watch over (from the French  survei...
<ul><li>Introducing Surveillance Studies </li></ul><ul><li>Surveillance studies is a growing body of academics who are con...
<ul><li>1) Communication and Information Technology </li></ul><ul><li>The devices and infrastructure through which persona...
<ul><li>1) Communication and Information Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Regarding the deployment of new technology, we often...
<ul><li>2) Privacy Rights </li></ul><ul><li>Widely recognized as being threatened by surveillance practices. </li></ul><ul...
<ul><li>2) Privacy Rights </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook example: Users are able to operate through several layers of privacy ...
<ul><li>3) Discrimination & Social Sorting </li></ul><ul><li>Often overlooked, but crucially important sociological conseq...
1. Gender is presented as a binary, although the user can refrain from filling in the category. <ul><li>3) Discrimination ...
<ul><li>Agenda-Setting Concern # 1: </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook and Surveillant Assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>Most of our m...
<ul><li>Facebook and Surveillant Assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>No single form of surveillance, multiple forms of monitorin...
<ul><li>Facebook and Surveillant Assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>Heterogeneous objects: Imaging devices, software, algorithm...
<ul><li>Facebook and Surveillant Assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook has been assembled into surveillance practices whe...
<ul><li>Agenda-Setting Concern # 2: </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook and Lateral Surveillance </li></ul><ul><li>Following the co...
<ul><li>Facebook and Lateral Surveillance </li></ul><ul><li>Denotes a variety of settings and motivations, including: </li...
<ul><li>Facebook and Lateral Surveillance </li></ul><ul><li>Return to Facebook Stalking: Users monitor each other’s profil...
<ul><li>Facebook and Lateral Surveillance </li></ul><ul><li>Research questions on this topic include: </li></ul><ul><li>Wh...
<ul><li>Concluding Remarks </li></ul><ul><li>Social Networking Sites are increasingly recognized as sites of sociological ...
<ul><li>Concluding Remarks </li></ul><ul><li>Subsequent research should address the following: </li></ul><ul><li>What are ...
Thank You! Daniel Trottier dan.trottier @ gmail.com
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“Social Networking Sites: A Surveillance Studies Primer”
In recognizing social networking sites as sites of sociological concern, this presentation will offer a surveillance studies perspective to this topic. Using Facebook as a case study, a review of key surveillance material as well as preliminary findings will underscore directions for future research. In particular, the popularized and controversial practice of 'Facebook stalking' will serve to illustrate how lateral (or peer-to-peer) surveillance not only supplements, but may also amplify conventional forms of monitoring.
Questions:
1) Can practices such as deception or dissimulation on social networking sites be regarded as ways of resisting surveillance?
2) What kind of connections does Facebook enable between peer-based forms of surveillance, and practices such as employee screening?

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Dan Trottier

  1. 1. Social Networking Sites: A Surveillance Studies Primer Daniel Trottier – PhD Candidate Department of Sociology Queen’s University, Canada CITASA - Mini-Conference 3.0 Sunday, August 12th, 2007
  2. 2. Purpose / Disclaimer <ul><li>In this brief presentation, I will introduce SNS’s from a surveillance studies perspective, highlighting the key issues that are evoked by the latter. </li></ul><ul><li>As I am in the early stages of my research, this presentation will establish a series of questions and concerns that follow from this topic. </li></ul><ul><li>All things considered, some aspects will not be given sufficient coverage. Please feel free to contact me for further clarification and discussion. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Outline: In the next 9 minutes, I will… <ul><li>Highlight Facebook’s relevance </li></ul><ul><li>Introduce surveillance studies </li></ul><ul><li>3 general concerns: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Communication and Information Technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Privacy Rights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discrimination and Social Sorting </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Present agenda-setting concerns: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facebook and the ‘Surveillant Assemblage’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facebook and ‘Lateral Surveillance’ </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Why Study Facebook: </li></ul><ul><li>Recent Controversy & Popularity </li></ul><ul><li>Sept. 2006: Facebook introduces a ‘News Feed’ feature that summarizes user activity as a series of one-line news items. </li></ul><ul><li>This feature was met with outrage by users who were concerned that other users could monitor their online activity. </li></ul><ul><li>Particular concern over ‘Facebook Stalking’: the process by which users watch over other users’ profiles, often in a one-sided and predatory manner. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Why Study Facebook: </li></ul><ul><li>Recent Controversy & Popularity </li></ul><ul><li>Since then, Facebook’s population has tripled to over 30 million users, and concerns over ‘stalking’ have receded. </li></ul><ul><li>The expansion of privacy settings fosters the impression that users have control over who has access to what parts of their profile. </li></ul><ul><li>FB is now perceived to be a ‘roach motel’: </li></ul><ul><li>Information goes in, but it doesn’t go out. </li></ul><ul><li>Yet Facebook – as well as other social networking sites – are crucial to a wide variety of contemporary surveillance practices. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Introducing Surveillance Studies </li></ul><ul><li>Surveillance definition: To watch over (from the French surveiller ) </li></ul><ul><li>Often associated with institutions monitoring subjects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>States and citizens </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prisons and inmates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Corporations and employees </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Markets and consumers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Attempted goals of surveillance: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To possess knowledge about a group of individuals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To exert control over a group of individuals </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Introducing Surveillance Studies </li></ul><ul><li>Surveillance studies is a growing body of academics who are concerned with contemporary monitoring practices. </li></ul><ul><li>A multi-disciplinary approach: surveillance scholars can be found in: Sociology, Information Science, Law, Political Science, Policy Studies, etc… </li></ul><ul><li>Three general concerns: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1) Communication and Information Technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2) Privacy Rights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3) Discrimination and Social Sorting </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>1) Communication and Information Technology </li></ul><ul><li>The devices and infrastructure through which personal information is gathered, stored, analyzed, distributed, etc… </li></ul><ul><li>Not technological determinism, yet “access to improved speed of handling and richer sources of information about individuals and populations is believed to be the best way to check and monitor behaviour, to influence persons and populations, and to anticipate and pre-empt risks.” 1 </li></ul>1. Lyon, D. 2002. Surveillance as Social Sorting . London: Routledge. p.14
  9. 9. <ul><li>1) Communication and Information Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Regarding the deployment of new technology, we often witness a shift… </li></ul><ul><li>From: excitement / panic / outrage / speculation </li></ul><ul><li>To: familiarity / ubiquity / everyday usage </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook ex.: News feeds (no longer controversial) </li></ul><ul><li>As FB becomes a mundane technology: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Spreads to a wider array of social spheres </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ex: inclusion of workplace, regional, and high-school networks. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Elicits less concern, is used unreflexively. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>2) Privacy Rights </li></ul><ul><li>Widely recognized as being threatened by surveillance practices. </li></ul><ul><li>The private sphere is contrasted with public sphere as a site where individuals are not accountable to outside regulation. </li></ul><ul><li>Although valid, privacy concerns are themselves concerning: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Privacy’ is contextually-bound </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(differences at the workplace, at home, while shopping) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Privacy is often attributed to privileged groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(ex: middle-class family versus welfare recipient) </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>2) Privacy Rights </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook example: Users are able to operate through several layers of privacy by way of their settings (Public profile, limited profile, full profile, private messages and ‘pokes’). </li></ul><ul><li>We may speculate that the perception of ‘private spaces’ on FB gives users the impression that their personal information is private. In other words, that it is only intended recipients who may access this information. </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>3) Discrimination & Social Sorting </li></ul><ul><li>Often overlooked, but crucially important sociological consequence of surveillance practices </li></ul><ul><li>As a result of monitoring, information is aggregated (‘databased’), categories are established, and groups of individuals are sorted out. </li></ul><ul><li>Consequences include being profiled as a ‘risky’ individual, as well as preferential treatment for desirable groups. </li></ul><ul><li>ex: Consumer surveillance and profiling: Information gathered from loyalty cards (Air Miles, etc..) is analyzed in order to establish categories of consumers who receive different offers, services, etc. </li></ul>
  13. 13. 1. Gender is presented as a binary, although the user can refrain from filling in the category. <ul><li>3) Discrimination & Social Sorting </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook example: Consider the kinds of classification and sorting that are possible through FB </li></ul><ul><li>1) Demographics: Age, Gender 1 , Dating Habits, Political and Religious Views. </li></ul><ul><li>2) Consumptive Preferences: Largely tastes in media (movies, music, books), but (often sponsored) third-party software expands on this. </li></ul><ul><li>3) Risk profiles: Underage drinkers, Threats to national security, Ineligible job candidates, Unruly high school students. </li></ul><ul><li>Of particular interest is the fact that this information is voluntarily provided by users. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Agenda-Setting Concern # 1: </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook and Surveillant Assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>Most of our models for understanding surveillance are based on a central agent or figure: </li></ul><ul><li>Orwellian Imagery: Big Brother is Watching You </li></ul><ul><li>In actuality, no single watcher: even ‘the state’ is made up of multiple agencies, with separate surveillance systems. </li></ul><ul><li>Michel Foucault’s Panopticon: Prison architecture and sociological model </li></ul><ul><li>As a model of surveillance, the panopticon suggests a central watchtower (or database 1 ) from which all social activity is visible. </li></ul><ul><li>Helpful starting point, but a more nuanced understanding of surveillance processes is possible. </li></ul>1. Poster, M. 1996. Databases as Discourse, or, Electronic Interpellations. Computers, Surveillance, and Privacy . D. Lyon and E. Zureik (eds.). Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press: 175-92
  15. 15. <ul><li>Facebook and Surveillant Assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>No single form of surveillance, multiple forms of monitoring. </li></ul><ul><li>Yet despite the plurality of agents and agendas within surveillance practices, we are undergoing “a convergence of what were once discrete surveillance systems to the point that we can now speak of an emerging ‘surveillant assemblage.’” 1 </li></ul><ul><li>Reconcile multiplicity and singularity in surveillance, insofar as assemblages are a “ multiplicity of heterogeneous objects, whose unity comes solely from the fact that these items function together, that they [net] ‘work’ together as a functional entity.” 2 </li></ul>1. Haggerty, K., and R. Ericson. 2000.The Surveillant Assemblage . British Journal of Sociology 51(4): 605-22, p.606 2. Patton, P. 1994. MetamorphoLogic: Bodies and Powers in A Thousand Plateaus . Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 25(2): 157–69, p.158
  16. 16. <ul><li>Facebook and Surveillant Assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>Heterogeneous objects: Imaging devices, software, algorithms, databases, etc… </li></ul><ul><li>Heterogeneous connections: In addition to horizontal (or hierarchical) ‘flows’ of information from individuals to systems, we may witness vertical (or rhizomatic) flows among systems, agents etc… </li></ul><ul><li>ex: Department of Homeland Security using consumer databases to enrich profiles of high-risk individuals. </li></ul><ul><li>Initially, Facebook appears to be a single, discrete database. However… </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Facebook and Surveillant Assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook has been assembled into surveillance practices when agents from other institutions use the site to gather information on individuals. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ex: Workplace monitoring may now include searching an employee’s profile. Similar cases have emerged with high-school students whose activity on FB have been monitored. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Likewise, Facebook is made up of applications (3 rd party or otherwise) that connect its database to other facets of web 2.0: Youtube, Digg, Flickr, etc… </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple bodies of information are assembled and thus enable surveillance practices that cut across social spheres. </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>Agenda-Setting Concern # 2: </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook and Lateral Surveillance </li></ul><ul><li>Following the concept of the assemblage, we can recognize dispersed and decentralized surveillance practices. </li></ul><ul><li>Assemblages are also made up of individuals who engage in interpersonal forms of surveillance. This is called lateral (or peer-to-peer) surveillance. </li></ul><ul><li>Defined as “the use of surveillance tools by individuals, rather than by agents of institutions public or private, to keep track of one another.” 1 </li></ul>1. Andrejevic, M. 2005. The Work of Watching One Another: Lateral Surveillance, Risk, and Governance. Surveillance and Society 2(4): 479-97, p.488
  19. 19. <ul><li>Facebook and Lateral Surveillance </li></ul><ul><li>Denotes a variety of settings and motivations, including: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Care’: A parent installs keystroke-monitoring software on their child’s computer to ensure that they don’t engage in risky online activity. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Distrust’: A wife enters their spouse’s name in Google in order to find evidence of infidelity. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These may not otherwise be regarded as surveillance, yet the domestication of surveillance technology (home drug testing kits, background-check software) suggests that these activities can be made meaningful from this perspective. </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>Facebook and Lateral Surveillance </li></ul><ul><li>Return to Facebook Stalking: Users monitor each other’s profiles for a variety of reasons and motivations. </li></ul><ul><li>Interestingly, FB users monitor their peers as well as undergo monitoring by peers. Future research will investigate how users negotiate these two positions. </li></ul><ul><li>This may be regarded as a “democratization” 1 of surveillance. Yet this suggests that individual ‘stalking’ practices on FB have no connection to hierarchical surveillance. </li></ul>1. Koskela, H. 2004. Webcams, TV shows and mobile phones. Empowering exhibitionism. Surveillance and Society , 2(2/3): 199–215.
  21. 21. <ul><li>Facebook and Lateral Surveillance </li></ul><ul><li>Research questions on this topic include: </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of connections does Facebook enable between peer-based forms of surveillance and institutional practices such as employee screening? </li></ul><ul><li>In what manner does Facebook shape or modify pre-existing forms of peer-based surveillance? </li></ul><ul><li>Does lateral surveillance lead to an acclimatization towards other forms of surveillance? </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Concluding Remarks </li></ul><ul><li>Social Networking Sites are increasingly recognized as sites of sociological concern. In addition, they mark the proliferation of surveillance in everyday life. </li></ul><ul><li>Sites like Facebook are used to exchange a myriad of personal information among peers. These exchanges themselves may not only be recognized as a form of surveillance, but they may also facilitate and amplify longstanding forms of institutional surveillance. </li></ul><ul><li>This is indicative of emerging forms of surveillance that couple longstanding instances of mutual-monitoring with increasingly domesticated communication and information technologies. </li></ul>
  23. 23. <ul><li>Concluding Remarks </li></ul><ul><li>Subsequent research should address the following: </li></ul><ul><li>What are the connections that Facebook users draw between exchanges of information among peers and conventional forms of surveillance? </li></ul><ul><li>What other devices are assembled with Facebook in order to further surveillance practices - lateral or otherwise? </li></ul><ul><li>What measures - including deceit and self-censorship - are users adopting on social networking sites in order to resist surveillance? </li></ul>
  24. 24. Thank You! Daniel Trottier dan.trottier @ gmail.com

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