Privacy as a Luxury Good

Another relevant datapoint as we look at eCitizenship, and the coming social disaster if we do not teach students tools of engagement. From Papacharissi 2010:

But what renders privacy a luxury commodity is that obtaining it implies a level of computer literacy that is inaccessible to most, and typically associated with higher income and education levels, and certain ethnic groups, in ways that mirror dominant socio–demographic inequalities (Hargittai, 2008). As a luxury commodity, the right to privacy, afforded to those fortunate enough to be Internet–literate becomes a social stratifier; it divides users into classes of haves and have–nots, thus creating a privacy divide. This privacy divide is further enlarged by the high income elasticity of demand that luxury goods possess. This privacy divide is further enlarged by the high income elasticity of demand that luxury goods possess. Privacy as a luxury commodity possesses similar elasticity; as people become more and more literate, they will be able to afford greater access to privacy.

Papacharissi is discussing this more in terms of the regulatory environment (which s the correct immediate focus, IMHO). And I don’t think teaching students to fiddle with Facebook settings should be seen as eCitizenship (I know others differ).

But it’s one more example to me of the disaster waiting if we do not start incorporating social media instruction into our education. Without education and regulation, the network isn’t an equalizer, it’s a privilege multiplier.

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