Assessment 3

Privacy in SNS(social network sites)


When it comes to social network sites, the majority of people would be reminded of popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Weibo. However, the definition of SNS is rarely known, and the privacy of SNS is readily ignored, which actually are significant and would be discussed in the following article.

Definition of SNS

Hinton and Hjorth(2013, p.39) stated that enabling and enhancing the construction of social networks is the core of social network sites. To be more accurate, Boyd and Ellison(2007, cited in Hinton and Hjorth,2013) defined SNS as “web-based services which allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semipublic profile in a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

Firstly, for a specific user, profiles are asked to provide for using social network, including preferred name, birth date, email address and other personal information. People could easily register an account through providing mobile number or email address. Hinton and Hjorth(2013) pointed out that some sites suggest users to upload their head portrait for identification, choosing to be available publicly or privately by themselves. Others might find the specific person through information he/she filled in.


Secondly, Boyd and Ellison(2007) said that connections and relationships would be gradually formed through social network sites. Some sites like Twitter, people could follow others unilaterally, browsing messages and their condition publicly from people they followed. Other sites like wechat, which is the most popular social network site in China, require the link to be approved by both parties.

Thirdly, Crawford(2011) gave a viewpoint that the existence 017a1870c51ab509f53552ef8220978cof social network sites was to reflect the existence of the individual by commenting and messaging with others. Through SNS, it is convenient and effective for the public to communicate on the internet other than meeting in traditional modes, reminding others that the specific is still there.

Privacy in SNS

With the increasing spread of the Internet and social network sites, more privacy problems have emerged, which has led to complex concerns about privacy and has attached more attention to the importance of Internet security and surveillance. These privacy problems need to be researched with examples of social network sites:

(1)Privacy disclosure(Facebook)

Boyd and Marwick(2011) have pointed out that teenagers usually consider their parents’ behavior as an invasion when those parents try to monitor children’s online condition and activities, although sometimes parents know that coincidently. There is an example about a teenager, Bobbi Duncan, who is lesbian but she totally doesn’t want her father to know. However, Facebook told him. One evening, the president of Queer Chorus added her into an online choir discussion group, unwittingly exposing Duncan’s sexual orientation to all of her facebook friends. Then Duncan’s secret of sexuality was also known by her parents, which brought about detrimental influences on Duncan’s family relationship. Because in facebook, anyone could be added into a group by his/her friend directly. What’s more, the information of adding into a group would be told to all their facebook friends automatically in this software. Duncan turned to be a victim of this Facebook’s privacy loophole. Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes then addressed that they need to put endeavor on enhancing their privacy system and educating users about individual privacy controls(TingVoa, 2012)


(2)Privacy protection(Wechat)

Gross and Acquisti(2005) claimed that the younger generations do not utilize features of privacy suitably while Boyd and Hargittai(2010) stated that teenagers actually care about their online privacy and are aware of protecting their privacy in SNS. They know what they could post and who could be shared with.

Wechat, which is considered as the most popular social network site in China, has specific approaches for individuals to protect their privacy. The basic difference between Wechat and other social network sites(like facebook, twitter,I nstagram or weibo) is that individuals could only see comments from their friends instead of all the comments in the part of ‘circle of friends’, which means comments are semipublic and communication among friends is more private. In addition, settings of privacy in Wechat are divided more detailedly, including ‘People Nearby’, ‘Friend Confirmation’, ‘Public Moments’ and so on. Individuals could close settings like ‘Find Me by QQ ID’, ‘Find Me by Phone No.’ to avoid unnecessary harass. Whenever ‘People Nearby’ is open, individual’s location would be remembered, which need to be forgotten after using. Furthermore, other than external protection mentioned above, another affiliated software called ‘Wechat Lock’ is provided to protect internal privacy. Then even when the mobile phone is used by friends sometimes, information in Wechat is safeguarded by double password(7edown,2015).


Relation to my campaign

I have used three main social network sites: Weibo, Facebook and Instagram. Wechat was partly used to promote former three SNS.

Weibo: Weibo is similar to Twitter to some degree but more popular in China. Compared with Wechat, Weibo is much more public, information on which could be browsed by everyone. Therefore, individuals might prefer to post recreational news or incidents which require public’s attention. I started a campaign called ‘Naïve Music’ and launched a relevant video activity with hashtag ‘everyone could create a song’ on Weibo. Since individuals need to take part in this activity through recording a video and showing their faces, in order to protect personal privacy at the same time, the public could address this problem in several ways. Some of them own several accounts, then they could choose a specific musical account to join in this campaign without involving much private information. Some other participants choose to hide themselves under masks, highlighting their voices but weakening their faces and protecting their privacy.


Facebook and Instagram: In order to promote ‘Naïve Music’, I also created relevant hashtags like ‘Naïve Music’, ‘share a music story’ and ‘everydaymusician’ on Instagram and Facebook respectively. No matter of friends or strangers, everyone could participate in this campaign with these hashtags. Most forms of public’s participation are photos of their musical instruments or pictures of their idols, which would not leak much personal privacy if individuals join in activities in a suitable way. The little point need to be paid attention to is about automatic location, which is usually operated as background task when users upload photographs, so participants ought to care about this function when using these SNS.

Development on the theory

Hinton and Hjorth(2013) finally pointed out that most work were concerned about the privacy of individuals in social network sites. From my perspective, privacy is not only related to individuals. Privacy should actually be divided into two aspects: the privacy of individual and that of the government. Government’s privacy has been ignored at the very start.

A military video was released on Youtube on 5th April 2010. It showed that a multitude number of ordinary people and unintended targets were killed in drone strikes of Iraq war, even young children and journalists from Reuters were included. However,the spokesman of the military did not explain the reason for the collateral murder.

The government of United States considered drone strikes as its privacy, so it tried to delete relevant information about collateral murder instead of publishing all the truth to the public regardless of the disaster in target countries.

For the public, individuals have rights to have access to the information they need to know. Although military or the government is such a domain where hides numerous secrets, collateral murder in drone strikes is still beyond their right to conceal. But for the government, Lukin(2014), the Senior Lecturer of Macquarie University has said that national leaders would usually address that  killing is the nature of war. When it comes to the martial field, some specific data or videos of drone aircrafts are considered as government’s confidential information. On top of that, the power of  public opinion is readily guided towards a subjective way, prejudice included might burden pressure on the government.


All in all, the privacy of individuals in social network sites must be attached importance to and be protected by suitable means while the privacy of the government is difficult to judge, which is required to keep a balance between the privacy information and displayed information(Intelligeast,2015).



Boyd, D. M. & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of ComputerMediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230.

Boyd, D., & Marwick, A. (2011). Social steganography: Privacy in networked publics. International Communication Association, Boston, MA.

Crawford, K. (2011). Listening, not lurking: the neglected form of participation. Cultures of Participation.

Gross, R., & Acquisti, A. (2005, November). Information revelation and privacy in online social networks. In Proceedings of the 2005 ACM workshop on Privacy in the electronic society (pp. 71-80). ACM.

Hargittai, E. (2010). Facebook privacy settings: Who cares?. First Monday,15(8).

Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Understanding social media. Sage.

Intelligeast/250000 removing applications?(2015) Retrieved from

Lukin,A.(2014). MH17, Iraq, Gaza and the deadly verbal dance around killing people Retrieved from

TingVoa/ Don’t let Facebook leak your privacy (2012) Retrieved from

Wikileaks/ Collateral Murder (2010) Retrieved from

7edown/ How to protect your privacy of Wechat (2015) Retrieved from





2 thoughts on “Privacy in SNS(social network sites)

  1. Hi, hahahajiayan. I think you really did an excellent job! Your work is attractive to me because some of your points and cases can give inspiration of my own work for locative interface study.

    The specific timeline you have given, explained how people defined the concept of SNS in different period of time in a specific way. I am really interested in the part of privacy, because it gives vivid example strongly related to locative interface which I have analyzed.

    The examples you use as case study shows a strong logical connection. The first case is about invasion in Facebook, and another is how people protect their privacy in Wechat. Some application’s features you mentioned are embedded with LBS, such as “People Nearby”. Another feature you mentioned is called “Friend Circle”, which is relatively private function to show their moments in a safe environment. I think it is true, while I do feel confused by a question: if this function is created to protect users’ privacy, then who is the bad guy to blame?As we all have recognized that our data could be tracked down and recorded by the social media platforms.

    You also give a thoughtful extension of the theory, by discussing rights between individuals and nation or the whole society. I would rather to say it is the security problem in terms of one country. What do you think of that?

    By the way, I love your clear structure and cases!


  2. You did well in explaining the key concepts related to SNS (social network sites) with an understandable demonstration. You used several subtitles to outline a clear structure and provided three evidences, proper examples in daily life to support her definition. These shows you have read external readings, transformed theories into your own understanding and applied to life. You paid attention to one point- online privacy, it made the theme of the article clear. Facebook and Wechat are used as two examples to elaborate Privacy disclosure and protection. When it comes to the connection of theory and social media campaign, I think you are successful. Because when you encourage audiences to engage in her campaign, the privacy is emphasized, including location and verification of identity. In the part of development on the theory, you proposed one neglected point– Government’s privacy, through the example of Iraq war you pointed out that individuals have rights to have access to the information they need to know. In conclusion, the logic of the article is clear and reasonable and format of the reference is correct. Rich pictures and media contents contribute to the readability of the article. I think I was inspired by this article’s structure and ideas.


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