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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Chapter 32: Consumer Surveillance and Distributive Privacy Harms in the Age of Big Data (Mihaela Popescu / Lemi Baruh)


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Consumer Surveillance and Distributive Privacy Harms in the Age of Big Data

Mihaela Popescu and Lemi Baruh

On both sides of the Atlantic, privacy regulatory frameworks increasingly emphasize individual agency in the management of flows and use of personal data. A flurry of recent documents, for example the Privacy by Design guidelines developed by the Federal Trade Commission (2012), the White House Consumer Bill of Rights Draft (originally published in 2012 and recently revised in 2015), as well as the proposed reforms to the EU 95/46/EC Directive on Data Protection (European Parliament, 2012), share the assumptions that individuals are well able to protect themselves if only the threats to their privacy were made clear. In this context, one of the main goals of these regulatory frameworks has been enhancing transparency and consumer education to counter information asymmetries between individuals and data controllers/users (Hildebrandt & Koops, 2010; Van Alsenoy, Kosta, & Dumortier, 2014).

Concurrently with the adoption of privacy self-management as the solution to informational privacy problems, we are rapidly moving into an era in which algorithm-based decisions in all domains of social life will determine our life chances.1 In areas as consequential as health care, finance or auto insurance, inferences based on accumulated data about consumers, complex data mining and modeling processes, and predictive scoring lead to life-altering decisions about individuals based on their personal history, preferences, and group characteristics (e.g., Citron & Pasquale, 2014; Gandy, 2009)...

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