Perspectives in Digital Culture/Web as Public and Private Space

Web as Public and Private SpaceEdit


Web as being a Public and Private space is a typical assumption that refers to the functions and characteristics of the World Wide Web. The term 'Web' refers to a series of interconnected documents (web pages) that enable users of one computer to access information stored on another through the Internet.[1]A public web space, in its simplest form, is any website or webpage on the internet that is made accessible to anyone with a web browser or internet access. A private Web Space refers to any website or webpage that requires a password from a registered user, and thus access is restricted; examples of this include emails and social media accounts. However public and private spaces online are difficult to define, there is an element of disparity, a grey area between what is a public or a private space as opposed to a clear division. For example, social media accounts can be both private and public, every social media account requires a password for the user to access or post content, and thus it can be considered as a a private space. Depending on the privacy settings of the account, their personal information can be made accessible to any number of people by the click of a button meaning that the account can also be considered as a public space.

According to Zizi Papacharissi, public and private spaces online can also be defined on the basis of "mutual exclusivity" [2], is where people usually assume that something is private and that it cannot, or will not, be made public and vice versa. That being said, in the age of social media, Internet surveillance and the rapid diffusion of digital technology, the preconceived distinctions between public and private spaces online are blurred.

The internet is often regarded as being the agora of information in modern society [3], consisting of billions of websites from around the globe that operate on either a Public or Private Space. Nevertheless, with social media networking sites becoming a 'pervasive' phenomenon, already existing conflicts between Public and Private spaces online are further intensified. Many questions of uncertainty have been raised in regards to how much of our own personal information online is actually secure, and whether or not the distinctions between Public and Private Spaces online are becoming blurred [4]. The term Public Space was defined by Jurgen Habermas as a "realm of our social life in something approaching public opinion can be formed." [5]. According to Dearnley and Feather, "the Web represents the largest public space in human history". [6]

Always-on CultureEdit

danah boydEdit

danah boyd

danah boyd is the social scholar and key theorist behind 'always-on' culture. Her work The Social Media Reader[7] has brought to the forefront the problems that arise due to being always on. She places particular emphasis on the blurring of the lines between being on and off. In her book she states that: "It's no longer about on or off really, It's about living in a world where being networked to people and information wherever and whenever you need it is just assumed. I may not be always-on the Internet as we think of it colloquially, but I am always connected to the network. And that's what it means to be always-on." [8]

Always-on PhenomenonEdit

The modern phenomenon of being ‘always on’ centers around the idea that most of us are “never really offline”[9]. This idea revolves around the extensive use of smartphones, PCs, tablets and many other devices which are all connected to networks, as portals to the online world within which individuals are present at all times. David Gauntlett highlighted that at least three quarters of the population in the U.K. and U.S. are regular internet users. Although the internet offers endless possibilities Americans spend over half of their time online on social network sites, gaming, emailing and instant messaging. [10] Furthermore, Gauntlett also highlights the findings of a large scale study carried out by the Kaiser Foundation which shows that 74% per cent of 12-18 year olds had created a profile on a social networking site. [11] As danah boyd outlines, being 'always-on' is not limited to the time an individual physically spends in front of a screen doing things such as updating our Facebook page etc. The phrase also relates to our constant connection to the online world. A person does not have to be physically using technology for someone to contact or find information about us, as long as we are connected in some way using a single or multiple devices the channels of communication are open allowing for the virtual world to penetrate the real world at any given moment.

While boyd suggests that “the online is always around the corner” [12], she introduces the, arguably cultural determinist, concept of being “procontext”, meaning that despite living the always-on lifestyle, users are able to choose and negotiate where and when they are made available online. She gives an example of herself at the dinner table, where a phone may be on a person but they choose not to engage with it, instead he/she focuses on the conversation around the dinner table.

There is much discussion about the consequences of being ‘always on’, Recent research has discovered that there is emotional, physical and psychological effects of being constantly connected. Across 65 countries, 73.4% of people own a smartphone. Those that own them check them on average 110 times per day.[13]. These figures result in a high number of people with constant access to email, social media and text messages.

The future of 'always on culture' is unclear, but one things for certain, it shows no signs of decreasing. Almost four in five people now firmly believe that internet access is a basic human right and a public utility. [14]. Countries such as Finland and Estonia have already ruled that access is a human right for their citizens and International bodies such as the UN are also pushing for universal net access [15]. Some would insist that freedom of speech closely relates to this. In fact, internet giant Google have imminent plans to bring internet to the entire world by sending network-enabled balloons into the stratosphere[16]. The project is in the early stages, but, were it to succeed, it would take 'always on' global.

Advantages of being 'Always On'Edit

Always being connected to technology comes with a range of benefits. Firstly, information is instantly accessible. In the past, people would have to buy a newspaper, watch the television, listen to the radio or receive information by word-of-mouth. With today's technology, we have unprecedented levels of information literally in our hands; at the touch of a button. Individuals can communicate at a faster rate, more efficiently than ever before and with people all around the globe.

As a result, children now have skills that their parents never accumulated. The younger generation are now able to impart wisdom on their elders. A notion which was thought to be implausible before the rise of modern technology. As a result of these great shifts in technological advancement, children's brains will develop in different ways. Oppositely , it is important to understand that because the advancement of technology is at such a rapid pace children are at risk of becoming addicted to their devices. Equally, children at earlier ages are getting connected with this always on culture and this gives them a chance to look at whatever they want when they want. As of right now, parents have to become more aware of the dangers of this always on culture and be very careful with their children and the technology that they have.


The 21st century has seen the advent of a new way for people to stay constantly connected. In the 1990s, the internet was far more primitive than it is in 2015. Broadband capabilities and the introduction of wifi technology has allowed internet users to connect around the world - internet users are now constantly connected globally. As they are now so embedded in their day to day lives, people may begin to feel frustrated without their devices. Certain people suffer from 'FOMO' (fear of missing out) and often become stressed and agitated if they cannot get the information, or make the connection needed at that particular time.

The introduction of mobile technology has revolutionized the way in which people interact with each other to the point where it is now difficult for people to imagine their lives without it. 'Always on culture' revolves around the concept that people are always tethered to the network, and it is mobile technology which has allowed this to happen. Mobile devices have now transcended the function of a basic telephone. For example, they are additionally utilised as cameras, calculators and video games. Most notably, however, modern mobile devices feature wireless internet which has, in some ways, acted as the catalyst for the 'Always-on' culture. Now, if an individual owns a handheld device or a laptop / personal computer, they are never truly offline. Tablet computers have also seen a large surge in popularity (devices similar to smart phones, but on a larger scale). Sonia Livingston suggest that 'we can no longer imagine living our daily lives - at leisure or at work, with family or friends without media and communication technologies. Nor would we want to'. [17]

Sherry Turkle and the Disadvantages of Being ConnectedEdit

Sherry Turkle has explained the impact that our "Always-on" culture has had on today's society, and how it is forming a world of people who rely on technology to be sociable. In her book "Alone Together"[18] she speaks about always-on culture and its negative impact on our society. “We are all cyborgs now,” [19] she states as we are constantly connected to one another electronically, and we feel uncomfortable when we are not. In the way we play video games and how we present ourselves on social media we live secondary lives. “Simple pleasures bring compulsions which [can] take me [us] by surprise,” [20] our attraction to a life online may be surprising, but it is understandable. The impressionistic values of our online identity – our online representation, narrative and realism – can all be portrayed selectively, however we like. Our identity can be edited and deleted. However our addiction to this identity impacts our real identity. People are so attached to mobile phones and computers that they are marked absent - departed from a face-to-face, human social life - and without them we are anxious and alone.

Sherry Turkle

Turkle, in her subsequent TED Talk "Connected, but Alone?"[21], spoke about today’s adolescents. Children are being brought up with parents who text and the dinner table then leave the house to socialise, i.e., sit with their friends on their phones, not talking. She says, “adolescents need face to face experience,” and it’s difficult to disagree. This is the way the world is going, the social culture it has become – to be connected all of the time and communicate through screens, but, it is not healthy. Today’s adolescents, Turkle stated, prefer texting to having a conversation because, “[conversation] takes place in real time, and you can’t control what you’re going to say”. Children being brought up who would “rather text than talk” are missing out on a valuable life lesson. To have such clean and editable and deletable social lives is to say goodbye to our real personalities. We become fake, “I share therefore I am”. When our online lives become our personalities, we lose control of who we really are and we never learn to be alone.

Online Privacy, Piracy & AdvertisingEdit

Privacy, surveillance, and safety are some of the worries that surround the Internet. People want to protect their privacy, be safe, and use the web knowing that no one is looking at them. However, there are many ways in which they are watched: their Google searches can be recorded; information they provide in a specific moment may be found online; and they are bombed by advertisements in almost every platform they use.


Cookies are data collected information stored onto a user’s hard drive when browsing different websites on the world wide web. The idea is that when an individual returns to a specific website, the individuals past activity can be retrieved by way of the browser sending a cookie back to the server. The information that is often collected from a website includes their registration details, online shopping basket or simply preferences. These details are then sent back to the web server and may be used to customise the website for that specific user.

Most websites use cookies, such as personal details like ‘home addresses’, to provide special offers to returning customers or for advertising. These are referred to as first-party cookies. However, some websites use third-party cookies. Third-party cookies collect the data users have given and distribute it to an advertising clearinghouse, who then share it with other websites. These types of cookies can include “tracker cookies” which use your online search history to present other forms of advertisements.

The introduction of cookies on websites initially caused controversy, with many users concerned about how this may infringe upon their online privacy. While browser-ad cookies are easy to detect and delete, many users are not very familiar with 'flash-based cookies'. Flash based cookies are not stored on your computer like browser-based cookies, as a result, they are harder to detect and delete, some even staying for several years. However, according to Ramesh Subramanian (2008) “most browsers have a parameter that can be set to either inform users when a site is attempting to install a cookie, allowing users the option to accept, decline, or prevent any cookies from being installed”. [22]

In an attempt to gain a better understanding of the extent of monitoring and the impact on privacy the Wall Street Journal recently conducted an investigation and found that “the nation’s 50 top websites on average installed 64 pieces of tracking technology onto the computers of visitors, usually with no warning.” The investigation also found that the information collected on users is constantly updated and compiled into specific user profiles, which are then “bought and sold on stock market-like exchanges. [23]

The EU Cookie Law came into effect as of 26th May 2011, which states that websites must first ask users for permission to set cookies. This, in turn, has also caused controversy. Technology columnist for the Telegraph, Milo Yiannopoulos, protested this law, claiming that cookies had a multitude of uses other than for advertising and tracking purposes, and that they were ‘a core component of how today’s internet works.’ [24]

Search EnginesEdit

Most people do not consider a simple internet search to be worthwhile documenting. However, when using search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo, a user’s search history will be recorded to provide customised results on subsequent searches. These are known as filter bubbles. The results are based on location and viewing history. The search engine then uses algorithms to determine what search results relate best to your past viewing history. This leaves users stuck in their own filter bubbles, where information opposing or unrelated to past searches is unlikely to reach them.

Concerning the vast amount of links stored by Google which lead to personal data, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in 2014 that European users have the ‘right to be forgotten.’ As such, users may request for any of their personal data made visible by Google, which is out-dated and thus no longer relevant, to be deleted from the Google servers. Controversially, however, Google still holds the power to evaluate these requests and deem whether or not they are valid, stating that they would balance the ‘privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information.’ Furthermore, even in the event that a request is successful, Google have resolved only to remove the personal data from its European domains, which does little overall for users’ online privacy. [25] [26] Due to Google being able to record all search logs that are typed into their engine, it is feared in the future that this information could be handed over to certain government branches if they so requested to do so. For example, health insurance companies could request information about searches relating to a person's medical condition, which is a common occurrence whenever members of the public fall ill.

There are more secure alternatives to Google, Yahoo and Bing. Search engines such as DuckDuckGo avoid storing users’ personal data, do not use cookies, and even dispose of IP addresses from its server logs. Startpage and Ixquick does likewise, but comes equipped with an additional skill: the ability to yield the same search results as would be found on Google.[27] By spring 2013 Ixquick's views had increased to over 2.5 million hits a day, and after the Edward Snowden WikiLeaks scandal the web traffic have risen to 5 million views a day as of February 2014.[28]


In the days before the internet the laws of ownership and copyright were relatively straightforward. Creator, distributor and consumer all had certain rights and obligations when it came down to the copying and sharing of content for all forms of media including music, photographs, films or books. The producers would establish an asking price based on what they believed the value of the content was worth, which the consumer then paid to get access to a copy and what they then did with that copy then was usually up to them. The consumer is allowed to use the copy as often and as much as they want; they may lend or give it to someone else, because once they buy it, the right to decide what happens to the copy is transferred from the creator and distributor to the consumer. The only thing they are usually not allowed to do is make another copy, because the creator and/or distributor still holds this right. With the introduction of the internet, the copyright laws became a whole lot more complicated, mostly because the creators of these laws never anticipated the invention of the internet. In the following sections, with the help of Lawrence Lessig, why this is complicated will be looked at.

Lawrence Lessig, February 2008


Ownership of PhotographsEdit

When a creator makes content, a form of legal protection known as Copyright is assigned to it upon creation. This applies to any photograph a photographer takes, the rights of the image belong to them. The rights to the photograph are theirs to keep or sell. This also applies to photographs published online. If photos are taken from the internet, including those posted on social media, and used for newspapers or posters, this is a breach of copyright. A notable example of this is the 2011 Tottenham riots. The BBC published photos from the social network Twitter without alerting the original owners or giving them credit. [30] Even on social media, unless stated in the Terms and Agreements, permission to use the photographs must be obtained by the rights holder.

Ownership of MusicEdit

Music copyright in itself can be complicated because it is not always clear as to whom (the composer, performer or producer) a piece should be credited. The internet has complicated this further. It is generally accepted that if a consumer buys a CD, that specific copy belongs to them and, with the exception of duplicating it for profit, they are usually free to use it as they see fit. For instance, the consumer may burn it onto a blank CD so long as they do not sell that copy. However, sites like Napster have illustrated how the internet has become an issue for the music industry. Technically, whatever a consumer uploads to the internet is not another copy, but is the same file or copy as that originally purchased. According to copyright law, a consumer has the right to lend or even give this copy to another individual, and this is where it gets complicated. Prior to the existence of the internet, CDs were listened to by a limited number of individuals. However, through allowing people to freely download music online, the copy then becomes available to anyone with internet access. Therefore, the music industry claims to lose a lot of money because of the number of would-be customers who, rather than purchasing their own copy, access the uploaded version free of charge. While downloading copyrighted content is illegal, this has not deterred people from accessing music in this way; more people, in fact, illegally download music every year.

Ownership of FilmsEdit

A lot of the things said for music can be said for film as well. Before internet any copy a consumer had of a film was theirs to use the way they want to. The only other restriction on films was that an ordinary consumer not always allowed to freely rent it to other people. However, like with music, when the internet came along it started getting increasingly more difficult to stop the spread of illegal copies of a film, because the internet is so easily accessible for people all around the world. In 2005 the Motion Picture Association commissioned a report by the LEK to determine the loss of revenue by the film studios as a result of piracy. The results revealed that in 2005 alone "The U.S Motion picture studios lost $6.1 billion to privacy worldwide. [31]

Ownership of BooksEdit

As with music and films, when a consumer buys a copy of the book it means that they can do almost anything they want to do with it, as long as it does not involve making another copy. However, with the onset of the internet change in the book industry came rather slower than in the other industries. Possibly this was because uploading a book onto the internet is a lot harder and more time consuming than it is to do the same with a CD or film or even a photograph. Recently the E-book has been introduced and this has seen a whole new shift in the book industry. This industry is also claiming to lose money because of the illegal distribution of E-books. Another problem with the E-book is also that when a consumer buys an E-book they are not actually buying a copy, they are buying a licence to access this specific copy, meaning that once they have read it they are not allowed to sell it on or even give it to someone else. Sometimes the acquisition of this licence even means that they can only access the copy for a certain number of days or hours. This has caused a minor uproar because the regulation is now so strict that things a consumer was usually allowed to do in the time before the internet with physical copies, they are now not allowed to do with electronic copies of the product. If a book was being published by an independent author and it referred to copyrighted material such as movies and music, then the author would require permission with the aid of lawyers from the owners of that material in order to discuss those materials in their book.


While some private web spaces use the promise of no advertisements as an incentive for users to join them (i.e. adverts disappear upon logging in as a registered user), being one such example, joining other private web spaces contrarily further exposes users to advertisements. Facebook is especially notorious for their targeted advertising. In 2014, the social media giant was sued for allegedly targeting advertisements at users based on data gleaned from their private messages. [32] However, there are ways in which Internet users can very easily remove advertising in both public and private web spaces, namely browser add-ons such as Firefox’s Adblock Plus which requires no personal information to run, and also doesn't monitor your browsing history.


YouTube icon block

With its 1 billion users per month, the number one video-sharing site YouTube is used by large businesses as a widespread platform for marketing. The site, co-founded in February 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, started off as a simple video sharing platform whose main attraction was that it offered a wide variety of videos and it allowed users to comment and interact, in a time when social media was not part of our daily life, thus there wasn’t anything quite like it. Big corporations saw YouTube’s profitable potential, like Google who bought the site for 1.7 million in 2006. As Patricia Lange points out, the site evolved over the years (and keeps doing so to this day) and it went from being “a more social platform with links to friends and commentary, to emphasize commercial fare and individualized consumption”[33]. In recent years it becomes more and more evident how the site uses information such as search history to suggest content for users and rather than a social networking site (like in earlier years where users had a profile they could personalize and add friends) it has become a product for users to consume. YouTube also uses details like a user's subscription list to suggest other videos for them to watch.

Indeed, YouTube has attracted businesses due to its popularity and influence. Not only is advertising present in the ads that are shown before a video or throughout a video, but through the users themselves. Companies have recognized that popular “youtubers” or “vloggers” some with up to 30,000,000 subscribers can have a big influence on their viewers and business arrangements are done through brand deals or co-branding.

Various YouTube vloggers have been paid by Google to put up videos on their accounts due to the rising popularity of the vloggers' videos. The range of topics go from make up tips, video game walkthroughs, film reviews and performing covers of famous songs. Many YouTubers also have contracts with other companies to promote products - anything from food to family attractions is promoted this way. Having an independent, and in many cases amateur is a new way for companies to advertise products. However with a new approach and style, and with YouTubers reaching such a wide audience it is proving effective.

It is this newer consumption aspect that has made YouTube a business platform. Based on the practices of several successful vloggers in building audiences[34], YouTube has outlined the “Hero, Hub, Hygiene” strategy and encouraged brands to adopt it. According to Brendan Gahan, the Hero, Hub, Hygiene approach is a “holistic video strategy that places emphasis on the need for consistency”[35]. This is based on the concept of “always-on marketing”, creating a steady stream of content, and rejects the concept of the “viral video”.

Viral video: One of the keys to a brand’s content strategy would be the making of a viral video. A high impact video that would get a surprising number hits and that perhaps would be likely talked about outside the ‘virtual world’. However, according to Gahan this perception is slowly diminishing.

Hero, Hub, Hygiene: Gahan argues that in adopting this strategy brands have “the latitude to create their campaign and viral content”[36] but the approach emphasizes the importance of regular creating of content as a way to give consumers a reason to keep coming back. published a piece on Nike's recent YouTube success in relation to the Hero, Hub, Hygiene approach and how it made the company "the sixth most subscribed and ninth most viewed brand on the platform".It is interesting to observe how the concept of the “always-on” culture that danah boyd discusses in terms of media users and consumers is being followed by brands and companies who want to keep up with their target users by giving them that constant stream of content.


According to Fuchs, surveillance aims to discipline or control the behaviour and actions of individuals and groups. This happens on a large scale by nations and corporations, and is done both on-line and off-line. Surveillance works because individuals and groups are forced to behave or act in a certain way, because they realise that all their actions and behaviours, such as appearance, movements, locations and even ideas could be recorded by surveillance systems. The theme of surveillance can be split up into political electronic surveillance and economic electronic surveillance.

Economic Electronic SurveillanceEdit

Economic surveillance threatens individuals by using the violence of the market in an attempt to force them to buy or produce commodities. Through economic surveillance corporations help reinforce the capitalist system. Corporations systematically gather data online about applicants, employees, the labour process, private property, consumers and competitors and analyse these to discover their economic behaviour and so minimize economic risks, discipline workers, increase productivity, circumvent theft, sabotage and protests but also control consumers through advertising and adapt to changing competition situations. One of the biggest parts of this surveillance is the surveillance of consumers, because consumers are best equipped to reinforce the capital system and the more they know about them, the more targeted their advertising can become. So a big part of their surveillance works through social media networks, because consumers willingly give large amounts of private information to these networks. Social media networks gather all this information, assess it and then sell it to third parties, such as advertising clients, often working for these big corporations. Fuchs has some examples from Google’s own social networking site Buzz (which no longer exists today) and Facebook.

Political Electronic SurveillanceEdit

Political surveillance operates on the premise that citizens are threatened by the potential of organized violent repercussions (better known as the law) if they behave in ways that can be categorized as ‘undesirable’. Surveillance of these people is carried out by what Fuchs calls ‘political actors’ and can be identified as police and secret services. On a corporate level, this means that surveillance is a method used to control the production and circulation process of commodities, but also for controlling and disciplining the workforce.

Digital SurveillanceEdit

As modernity and capitalism progressed, human relationships were extended across longer distances of space and yet still had to be coordinated in time. The availability of long distance telecommunications and the general physical mobility of individuals in late modernity has only amplified this process, to the point where telepresence has begun to replace co-presence in human interactions. This move has meant that surveillance has come to rely less on a watching, witnessing or policing of physical bodies based on physical proximity towards the surveillance of personal traces, or the metaphorical footsteps that people leave behind in the course of their activities. Within contemporary law enforcement this can be seen in the increasing use of CCTV cameras, as well as forensic - and particularly DNA - evidence. Within online contexts, this refers to the traces of internet activity left behind by an individual. Such online surveillance shows an increased concern for where people have been and what they have done and less concern with observations of current activities and the notion of catching someone 'in the act' as with embodied surveillance.

State Surveillance ToolsEdit

In terms of direct state surveillance, one of the most powerful, although nebulous resources is a system called Echelon. Echelon is a secret data collection system run jointly by the governments of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Being a classified security system, details of how it operates are vague, but Echelon is said to screen all international communications for intelligence by sifting through communication texts for phrases, keywords and phone numbers deemed relevant for security purposes. In addition to Echelon, the US also employs Carnivore, a kind of internet 'wiretap' system used by the FBI to monitor all incoming data into a particular IP address. To impliment Carnivore on US citizens, the FBI must justify its use to obtain a court order.

Some countries are now using the internationally networked architecture of the internet to claim a right to surveil communications data that not only originates or terminates within their borders, but also informations that passes through their infrastructure on the way to another country. In 2008 the US government passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which states that all internet communications going through the United States are now subject to government surveillance through various methods of 'wireless wiretapping'. Similarly, Sweden, an important northern European regional hub for internet traffic, passed the New Signal Surveillance Act in 2008, which permits Sweden's National Defence to access all internet and telephone conversations in and out of (and through) Sweden. This involves a large number of communications, which originate in Norway, Finland, Denmark and Russia.

At the same time, and in lieu of direct state surveillance, many governments are passing data protection legislation, which compels private telecommunications and internet companies to keep a record of all communications on their system for long periods of time, so that data can be accessed ad used by governments in criminal and and security investigations. For example, in 2006, the European Union passed the Data Retention Directive. This law was designed to assist the coordination of criminal investigations within the EU. It demands that all providers of electronic communications services must retain identifiable phone call and email data for at least six months and up to two years after the communication is made. This data includes at minimum the originator and receiver of the communication, as well as the date, location and duration of the communication.

Commercial and Private Digital Surveillance ToolsEdit

One of the most popular forms of surveillance by commercial enterprises, and by now a fundamental part of web surfing, are internet or HTTP 'cookies'. A cookie is a small piece of text that is automatically downloaded onto a computer when its browser visits a web page. It then records one's internet activity and sends this information back to its home web site. The role of cookies is to provide authentication of a user and coherence within a browsing or surfing session. Cookies are fundamental to the interactive and personalised experience of the web as they record user preferences as well as web surfing activity. Web browsers normally have the facility to disable cookies to preserve privacy, but disabling cookies makes many web sites impossible to use.

In addition, free internet services such as search engines and emails are used to collect data. Internet search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! store the IP address and search terms of every search performed on their sites. These details are used to help direct targeted advertising at web surfers on the basis of an overall profile of search interests. Google currently keeps every search performed attached to your IP address for 13 months, Microsoft for eighteen and Yahoo! for nine, before the data is anonymised. Similarly, free online email providers such as Googlemail use automated data mining to scan messages and mailboxes for words and terms in order to gain insights into a user's interests for advertising purposes. In addition, in many workplaces, employee email is routinely monitored by employers.

Keylogging is a less popular, but perhaps a more clandestine form of digital surveillance. A keylogger is a software program that monitors keystrokes on a computer keyboard. In corporate use, keyloggers can be purposefully installed on employee computers to surveil employee activity, or anyone else using company computers. Keyloggers can also be installed surreptitiously on personal or business computers through trojans downloaded during web surfing. Such malicious code can then send keystrokes associated with login and password data to a third party, creating opportunities for fraud, theft and invasions of privacy.

Mobile Phone SurveillanceEdit

The mobile phone not only captures digital communications, but also real-world locations and movements. Any mobile phone can have its position triangulated within a number of metres through its proximity to surrounding mobile phone masts, as long as the phone is switched on. This positional data is kept by mobile phone companies for between several months and several years and has already been used frequently in criminal investigations.

A new surveillance technique being used is the roving bug. Roving bugs occur when the microphone of a mobile phone is remotely switched on using an installed piece of software downloaded without the knowledge of the phone user. The microphone can then be witched on without the holder knowing and nearby voice conversations can be monitored and recorded. The microphone can even be switched on when the phone is 'off'. The only way to completely disable the bus is to remove the mobile phone battery.

Last, for personal and business use, there are a number of mobile phone tracking software applications available such as Phonesitter or Mobilespy. These allow a third party to track and monitor the position of a mobile phone on the internet with GPS accuracy.

Edward SnowdenEdit

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden is an American computer professional who leaked classified information to the mainstream media in 2013. As a result, he has become renowned as a whistleblower against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the United States government. The information released by Snowden concerns mass-scale government surveillance on citizens around the world by their respective, and foreign, regimes. His disclosures have fueled debates over government surveillance and the balance between national security and information privacy. Snowden has leaked thousands of classified documents to the media, including The Washington Post and The Guardian. This information includes revelations about how government organisations such as the NSA and GCHQ gather vast amounts of information from their citizens - as well as revealing specific details about how these organisations operate.

Edward Snowden fled the United States of America before leaking this information, taking refuge in Hong Kong as the documents were released, before seeking asylum in Russia where he currently resides. Snowden has been charged with three felonies under the 1977 Espionage Act. He alleges that the US government has revoked his passport and as a result, he cannot return to America to face trial even if he wished to. [37]

National Security Agency

Edward Snowden's revelations have sparked fierce debate surrounding government surveillance and the limits of government involvement in the private lives of its citizens - namely their online privacy. [38]


In February 2010, Google introduced a new social media networking service called 'Buzz', a site directly connected to Gmail (Google’s Webmail platform). According to Fuchs, Google’s introduction of Buzz, said it “is an attempt to gain importance in the social media market that has long been dominated by Facebook and Twitter”[39].Fuchs describes Google’s economic strategy as “gathering information on its users and selling them to advertising clients”[40]as a means of generating higher revenue.

Google, the No.1 site in the world according to Alexa [41], already gathers a lot of information on its users. Nevertheless, according to Fuchs, Buzz is largely a medium to enlarge its economic surveillance on its users. Buzz links several of its users’ Google APPLICATIONS together on one platform automatically, and thus allows its users to make links to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter over which Google has no direct control. That being said, Google is still able to follow what they do on those platforms. All of this is ‘legally’ guaranteed by their Privacy Policy that reads: “When you use Google Buzz, we may record information about your use of the product, such as the posts that you like or comment on and to other users who you communicate with. This is to provide you with a better experience on Buzz and other Google services and to improve the quality of Google services. […] If a user uses Google Buzz on a mobile device and chooses to view ‘nearby’ posts, their location will be collected by Google” (Google Buzz Privacy Policy, February 14, 2010). What Google really means by ‘improving their services’ is that they sell its users information to advertising clients who in return give more targeted and specific advertisements to Google users.


Data collection for marketing purposes also occurs on Facebook. Fuchs states that their privacy policy is a manifestation of a self-regulatory privacy policy regime that puts capital interests first. Its privacy policy is long and written in complex language to disguise their participation in economic surveillance. For example, Facebook says that they ‘share’ their users' information with third parties to cover up that they are selling it for their own capital gain. The issue is that while permission is granted by users when accepting the privacy policy, they do not ask their users help in formulating their privacy policy and also do not give their users and opt-out option. This is problematic because people have to agree to their terms ad if they do not, they cannot access the social media platform.

Nicole Cohen describes Facebook’s economic strategy as ‘valorization of surveillance.’[42] This means that Facebook is trying to put a price on surveillance. For example, most Facebook users put a lot of personal information on their accounts, such as phone numbers, where they work and where they live. But they also ‘like’ things on Facebook or click on things such as clothing stores, betting stores etc. Facebook stores all this on their servers and is easily accessible to them. Facebook has given itself the right (and so have its users, because they have all agreed with the Privacy Policy) to ‘share’ its users' personal data with third parties such as advertisers and corporation. However the word ‘share’ is a euphemism for selling and thus the price they ask for this is the price that can be put on surveillance. [43]

A study in 2009 by the Journal of Youth Studies explored University students use of Facebook as a platform for creating and maintaining "friendships" and engaging with family on Facebook. Most importantly it explored the students definition of web as a public and private space. Their findings were interesting; denying parents friends requests was a common theme however the underlying issue was confused notions and discrepancies when asked about online privacy vs public. Students did not appear to conceive of there being two distinct realms of public and privacy on Facebook: the ‘public’ appeared to be the individual's private social world. They found that the extensive use of this type of social media and the internet in general had replaced traditional public/private definitions and awareness and had blurred the lines between the two worlds. The study found that internet based communication and friendships appear to have induced this confusion as users cannot tell between their own private and public worlds on social media showing its profound effect on us. [44]


Techno-logic is in effect an extension to the idea of surveillance as a consequence of rationalised bureaucracy. However, instead of resulting from an imperative of control and efficiency, in the theme of techno-logic, increased surveillance is a consequence of an increasing dependence on computers and machines. This approach revolves around the idea that as computers become more integrated into society, the more society in its processes must reflect the demands of computerised ways of doing things. The central premise is that the use of technology, in this case surveillance technologies, creates a momentum of its own.

While such a suggestion can be seen as being somewhat technologically determinist, the concept of 'function creep' supports the same premise. Function creep occurs when the use of a particular surveillance technology or method begins to spread beyond its original function and into other areas, or used in less reasonable ways. In this example, CCTV cameras used to prevent vandalism in one location might eventually spread into staff rooms and toilet facilities. Perhaps the introduction of cameras into all parts of the school paves the way for microphones to record conversations taking place within the school. Thus, the function creep progresses from a justifiable use of surveillance technology to one that is more invasive on personal freedom.

Snoopers' CharterEdit

The 'Snoopers' Charter' - formally known as the Draft Communications Data bill - is a draft legislation proposed by the U.K.'s Home Secretary Theresa May, which would require that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile data companies to store records of all communications data usage collected from online and telecommunications interactions. The already existing Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act requires email and telephone communications data to be stored, and the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill - which is already going through parliament - will put into practice the ability to identify someone by their IP address, but the Draft Communications Data Bill would cover additional forms of communication, including; social media interactions, internet browser history and also communications data from online gaming. The ISPs and mobile networks would have to, by law, store this information for a duration of 12 months, and during this time, HM Revenue and Customs, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the intelligence agencies and the police force would all be granted immediate access to this data. Encrypted services like Apple's 'imessage' and the app 'Snapchat' may be banned in the U.K. as they offer an encrypted service which is untraceable. [45]
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, opposed this legislation and the Liberal Democrats Party blocked the legislation from the 2010-2015 coalition, but in response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting which took place in Paris, January 2015, Prime Minister, David Cameron revived the proposed legislation and has confirmed that he will increase the state's power to access said data if his party wins the next general election in May 2015. The 'Snoopers' Charter' is believed by some that it will aid in the prevention of terrorist behavior by uncovering interactions online and the Prime Minister has stated that the legislation would 'close the "safe spaces" used by suspected terrorists to communicate online'.[46]
The 'Snoopers' Charter' has been widely criticized by privacy activist groups, companies and the general public alike. The Open Rights Group committee believe that the bill is far too intrusive with regards to our privacy online and they released a statement this year stating that 'the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should for the purpose of providing necessary and justifiable official access to communications data'.[47] Apple CEO Tim Cook blasted the bill and the way in which it was delivered, referring to the government's tactics as 'scaremongering' and said that privacy 'is a basic human right'. Tim Cook believes that the bill will not crack down on terrorist communications and terrorists will work out ways around the law. He concluded that those who will be affected 'by cracking down on privacy are the good people'.[48]
Privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch carried out a survey which consisted of more than 1,800 adults. In this poll, 71% said that they do not believe that the data stored will be kept securely and only 6% of the British public think that the government have made a 'clear and compelling' argument.[49]
The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, expressed his views on the 'Snoopers' Charter' bill, highlighting concerns regarding the security of the retained data, saying that the bill will 'force many relatively small companies to hang on to data that they would not otherwise retain, which puts the data at risk'.[50]
The future of the Draft Communications Data bill will be in the hands of the next party in parliament after the election in May 2015.

Information LeaksEdit


From the moment an individual saves anything in a digital format, both online and offline, that information will become instantly susceptible to hacking. Defined by the "UNIX Terrorist" as "people that gain unauthorized access/ privileges to computerized systems". [51], "hackers" are people that have an in depth knowledge of programming and use this in order to acquire information that would be otherwise unavailable to them, often with the intent of sharing this information with the general public. The majority of hackers work under the guise of a self imposed code of ethics whereby they decide what information they believe should and should not be available. Often the aim is to target governmental and administrative systems with the intent of exposing discrepencies and corruption. However there are those that attack individuals on a personal level and steal sensitive information that could be harmful to that person. One example of this can be witnessed in the celebrity photo hack.

2014 iCloud HackEdit

On the 31st August 2014, around 500 private photographs of celebrities were leaked online to the website 4chan. These photos comprised of mostly women, many of which contained nudity. As a result of the leak, the majority of these photos were shared on multiple social networks. The images were believed to have been taken from Apple's iCloud storage platform, where the hackers managed to obtain usernames, passwords and security question answers of their targets[52].

Jennifer Lawrence - highly publicised victim of the 2014 iCloud Hack

These newly leaked photos were distributed to various sites including Tumblr, Perez Hilton's blog and Reddit. As one of the victims, McKayla Maroney, was under 18 when the photos were taken, Reddit removed her photos and any user posting them would be banned and could be prosecuted for distributing child pornography[53]. Victims of the privacy breach included Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Jessica Brown Findlay, Amber Heard and many more[54]. Clearly this shows that no matter how high someone’s social status is in society their private images are not safe on the web.

The scandal raised the issue of whether risque photos that are meant to be for private viewing only should even be taken at all. It is generally believed that the leak is considered a sex crime and those who hacked into the iCloud platform should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Notable Hacking IncidentsEdit

Hacking is not merely and act reserved for individuals on a personal level. There have been many cases in which large scale corporations and business's have been targeted by hackers. At this level the knock on effect can impact millions of people often without their knowledge. Such cases include:

The TJX hacking scandal is considered one of the biggest in history. In involved hackers infiltrating the TJX computer system and stealing files containing data on over 40 million customers credit cards over an 18 month period in 2007. It is estimated that it cost the company over $256 million and reduced its full year profit by 25 cents a share [55]

E-commerce website eBay was the victim of a high profile hack between late February and early March 2014. The culprits of the hack were able to gain access to encrypted information that reportedly “exposed millions of passwords and other data”. [56]

Sony Pictures were victim to a hacking incident in November 2014 in which it was reported the culprits were able to obtain “data considered confidential by Sony”. The Sony Pictures Entertainment Hack lead to personal information about Sony employees, this information was then leaked. The hackers called themselves the Guardians of Peace and demanded the cancellation of the Sony film The Interview a film involving a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader. The hack lead to Sony momentarily cancelling the release of The Interview amid rumours of North Korea being responsible for the online hack. The Interview was later released on video on demand websites such as YouTube and Netflix. [57] The information leaked in the hacking included emails exchanged between studio executives and actors, notably Hollywood executive Amy Pascal, who stepped down from Sony in February 2015 following the scandal. [58] Amongst the e-mail leaks were details regarding Pascal's feelings towards Angelina Jolie[59], discussions about creating a Men in Black/Jump Street crossover[60], and a potential deal between Marvel Studios and Sony on co-ownership of the Spider-Man franchise (a deal which came to fruition in February 2015).[61][62] However more importantly salaries and personal details of workers at Sony were leaked out onto the internet, which is believed by many to be the reason for Pascal's departure.

Social MediaEdit

The web, especially social media, allows users to be producers - the audience has become active. Asserting that the audience participates implies the internet is a two-way platform, in which a conversation takes place. Thus, a participatory culture is created by the users. Henry Jenkings defined the participatory culture:

“A culture with a relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one's creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another”[63].

In this participatory culture, and mostly through social media, the user as an amateur producer appears.

-User generated content (UGC): they share content generated by others[64]

-User created content (UCC): they make their own content. These users need time, creativity, social and even financial capital. They take their activity as professionally, although they do not receive money for it.[65]

However, the content can be created in order to show it to others, as a result of their social media activity. The former is the kind of content that transform social media into a public space. The latter refers to the use of social media as a private space, in which users create an online identity.

"Curious and Social Critters"

This participatory culture derives from the rapid technological developments, which allow us to communicate with each other instantly. Most importantly it allows “those formerly known as the audience”[66] to abandon their alleged passive role and interact through the technology that becomes more and more easily accessible. Dan Gillmore refers to the “former audience” as the owners and operators of tools that were once exclusively used by the “big media”[67].

boyd points out that with social media it is often assumed that people are addicted to the technology itself. This is easily believable given the growing demand for technological devices such a smart phones, tablets, etc. However, she suggests that rather than being addicted to the technology, “humans are curious and social critters”[68] who we care about the technology only because it provides new portals for social activity and interaction. The freedom to express our opinions on social platforms and respond to the big corporations comes with a sense of liberation for users who were once readers and “those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way”. [69]

Social Media as a Public SpaceEdit

The boundaries that once separated public space from private space have indeed blurred, particularly when looking at social media. Social media's role is often perceived as the creation of an entirely new identity for many users, which they share with friends and families in the virtual world, therefore it could be argued that social media technologies have helped ‘mobilise’ and define our identities, the way we communicate with each other, and how we present ourselves to the world. With this in mind, social media can be considered as being a ‘public space’. However, there are restrictions on how public they are. Most, if not all, social media profiles can be set to private, making it possible for users to restrict traffic to friends and families only. That being said, people are becoming more relaxed in regards to the kinds of information they share online, this could be due to an element of trust in the internet especially by younger generations. In a 2013 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, teens were shown to be the most likely to share personal information online including: pictures of themselves, their school name, the name of their town/city, their email address, and even their phone number. In each case the percentage of teens willing to share this personal information rose significantly in a six year period from 2006 to 2012. [70].

As a result of more teenagers exposing their personal information on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, many scholars have put forward the argument that social networking sites belong in the public space. Warfel (2008) suggests that “public communications such as social media sites would have lower expectations of privacy, and thus fall into the public sphere”[71]. The previous statement is indeed debatable, nevertheless, it does support the 2013 study to an extent in the sense that more young people are becoming increasingly comfortable online, thus releasing a lot of personal information, and as a result, this does lower the expectations of privacy on social media.

Sharing one's information has become much more common since the early days of the internet. This has, in turn, brought about the rise in anonymous social media sites. Sites such as Whisper, Yik Yak, and Confide. Their growth in popularity over recent years is because people have shared so much of their personal information online that they are no longer able to say what they want. This also links to Suler's concept of online disinhibition as people are unwilling to speak their mind, in fear of judgement, they will post popular opinions on sites such as Facebook but say exactly what they want on social media sites like Whisper. [72]

There are also examples of areas of social media sites that are intended to be public. Twitter's hashtag function is one such example, it allows users to post their tweet publicly for millions of people to see. Twitter's hashtags have had a major effect on society. A large portion of their success is based on News, making it possible for breaking news to be shared instantly, directly from the source reaching people much faster than traditional news media. [73] It also proved to be a major influence on the uprising in Egypt, where thousands of people took to the streets to protest. Not only did Twitter fuel this uprising, it also let the rest of the world observe what was going on through first hand accounts and pictures. [74]

YouTube can also be considered a public space. Not only is it a website where people can upload videos publicly, the contents of which can be anything the user wants (excluding sexually explicit content), it was also utilised by American politicians as a tool to help them connect with their audience. The current President of the United States, Barack Obama, was one such politician who created a YouTube account, posting 41 videos between October 2006 and April 2007, when he was still junior senator. The account had over four thousand subscribers, in 2006 this would be a considerable amount, and would include content like Obama's Iraq policies. [75] Hilary Clinton also has her own YouTube account. This shows how YouTube can be used in a political setting and also how the site can be considered a public space as it it a place where public opinion can form.

Tumblr is also a popular form of social media that is generally perused by teenagers with varying interests. The website has seen increasing interest from celebrities including Beyonce, Britney Spears and Zooey Deschanel. Tumblr is mainly used to circulate photos and memes regarding daily life in popular culture (i.e. TV shows, movies, fandoms etc), and recently sparked the 'Dress' debate regarding the dress's colour. Thanks to other forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, pictures from Tumblr can spread quickly and sometimes with great effect. Unfortunately recent controversies such as the celebrity leak scandal and 'Gamergate' have brought negative attention to Tumblr and its users. [76] The website has also been criticized for its anonymous function. Users are able to send each other messages and remain anonymous while doing so. While anonymity is possible in most social media sites, Tumblr's anonymous setting makes it much easier for people who want to send hate messages. This anon setting has resulted in things like the mass hate messages sent to targeted users. In mid-2014 a handful of users of the website Reddit organised to continuously send hate comments to specific Tumblr blogs, targeting people with mental illnesses to get the biggest reaction.

The introduction of smartphone and with them, apps, has changed the way people share information online. Apps like Snapchat offers users the chance to share personal photos quickly and easily with a large number of people - friends, family or strangers. The idea of Snapchat is that photos can only be viewed for a short period of time and cannot be saved. However other apps have found ways to get round or "hack" this function, allowing users to view photos again and again or take a screen shot. This can all be done without the user knowing, resulting in their data being stored without their knowledge or consent. Similarly, apps like Tinder allow people to connect with strangers, the aim of which being ones living close to them. Tinder has been criticised for how easy it is for strangers to meet up and has drawn attention to how exposed and vulnerable people are online. The amount of people of all ages and cultures posting their exact location on Tindr, to millions of strangers shows how comfortable people are with being public online. Unlike other dating sites many people use Tinder to arrange one night stands. This has led to several legal issues such as June 2014 when a sex discrimination and sexual harassment suit was issued against Tinder. In February 2014 security researchers found that Tinder users were able to access people's precise locations for between 40 and 165 days. A spokesperson for Tinder said the issues was resolved within 48 hours. This apparent ease in which people can find private information about strangers through their mobile is increasingly worrying, particularly with the amount of children and teenagers who are active online and on their mobile phones.

Social Media as a Private SpaceEdit

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been identified by many of its users as being a space within which people can roam and spend time in, rather than arrive, post and leave[77].In this sense, social media can be seen as being ‘private’ on a mental scale for individuals. They utilise the websites to construct personalities online which may mirror, extend or sometimes oppose those they play out in real life.[78]

Despite this, people are aware that what is posted on Facebook can essentially be tracked down by anyone however private the information might be kept.Users continue to share personal information and thoughts as though the idea of social media as being ‘public’ is second thought. Rather, social media is now being used more as a tool for private self-expression.

Facebook and Twitter do in fact have the option of allowing a user to make their account private to a certain extent. A user may want to make it so only people who have added them on social media can see their profile. In the case of Twitter, a user can make their account 'private' by not allowing retweets of their status updates. This privatisation exists only to a point as Facebook and Twitter can still keep a record of user accounts. In fact Facebook has a system in place that keeps track of every word that is typed into a status update even if it is deleted before being posted. This brings up the issue of whether or not trust can really be given to those who run social media websites.

As mentioned before, the public and private blend in with one another when it comes to the subject of social media. An example of this includes the construction of friendship and relationships. Where although private conversation can be had on the messaging service, a teenager is still unlikely to accept their parent as a friend on Facebook, in fear of embarrassment within the public sphere. [79]

Web as a Commercial SpaceEdit

High rate

One of the greatest advantages of the Web as a public space, is that it allows businesses of all sizes to showcase their products and services on a local to global platform. Every enterprise from the local alterations shop to the widget manufacturer wishing to conduct business overseas, benefits from the connections made on the global network which is the World Wide Web. There can hardly be a business in the western world that does not make use of the web to promote their business in some way. According to Dearnley and Feather "There are few organisations or activities that do not have a Web presence". [80]. Furthermore, David Gauntlet states that ' The Web has certainly made it easier for everyday people to share the fruits of their creativity with others and to collaboratively make interesting, informative and cultural spaces. [81]


The Web has become a virtual High Street where consumers can go all the way from awareness to interest to desire to action, all within the same medium and within the same session. [82]. It is not then surprising that e-commerce has become an everyday phenomenon and a generally accepted way of conducting, and completing business transactions in the developed world. Amongst the larger e-commerce sites are eBay, Amazon and Netflix who conduct their business solely online and are perfect examples of organizations who reap the benefits of the prosumer society. 'The two great benefits of e-commerce are the customer's convenience (most obviously 24-hours access), and cost savings, which can reduce prices and increase profits.' Growing numbers of people have changed their shopping habits by conducting much of their business online and many businesses are coming up with new and innovative ways of launching and marketing their goods or services to maximize visibility and profit by making best use of the internet. Recently, U.K. band 'The Kaiser Chiefs' launched their latest CD in a non traditional and novel way by posting their 20 songs online for a cost of Euros 8.50, and fans could download a selection of 10 songs. Although the team had to develop new website technology to accommodate the new business model, 'the band claimed that they wanted to do something new and acknowledged that the Internet is the future of music distribution.' [83]

According to 'The Centre for Retail Research' e-commerce is the fastest growing retail market in Europe. The Centre quotes figures for seven European countries France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Germany, The Netherlands and the U.K. as having retail sales online in 2014 of £132.05 billion with a predicted rise to £156.39 billion in 2015. Also in Europe, online retailers in 2015 are expanding 14.2 times faster than traditional stores. [84] . Although e-commerce is one of the greatest business success stories of the last decade it is clearly having a detrimental effect for traditional shops by reducing their market share. The general trend indicates that our actual High Streets are now operating in the shadow of the Virtual online store. However there is also an indication that many small retail outlets and local businesses are joining the online revolution and making best use of the visibility and retail opportunities that web has to offer.

Impression ManagementEdit

Impression Management is a practice within professional communications and public relations. The term describes the formation process of an organisation's or company's public image. It is generally done so by regulating and controlling information in social interaction, in the process influencing the general public's opinions on a person or company. There are a variety of impression management tactics that companies will use to convey their intended public image or message. The first tactic is behavioral matching. Behavioral matching is when the target of perception mimics the behavior of the perceiver. For example, someone being interviewed for a job will imitate the behavior of the manager imitating him. The second tactic of impression management is self-promotion. Self-promotion is exactly how it sounds, when someone promotes them self. An example of this would be when an employee reminds his/her employer about all of his/her noteworthy accomplishments. The third tactic of impression management is conforming to situational norms. An example of this would be an employee showing up extra early to work everyday because that is the norm at the company they work for. The fourth example of impression management is appreciating or flattering others. This can be done in a discreet and professional way so it doesn't seem forced. The last tactic of impression management is being consistent. This means that both nonverbal and verbal behaviors are kept constant. All of these impression management tactics are used by companies, employees, and organizations to protect and maintain their public image. [85]

Online DisinhibitionEdit

Online Disinhibition was first identified by John Suler, 2004. It refers to individuals who take on a different online persona and behave differently than they would in the real world. This can be in both positive and negative ways. In some aspects, the actions are not opposite to an individual’s character, but in fact extensions and alternate projections of themselves in the cyber world[86]. There are two opposing types of online disinhibition, Benign Disinhibition is where one shares overly private and personal information online. It often includes exaggerated acts of kindness and selflessness towards others. In contrast to this is Toxic Disinhibition, people who take on this online role experiment with bad language, anger and threatening behaviour which today could be described as a form of "Trolling" and in the wider sense Cyberbullying. For some, part of this toxic online persona is engaging in the “dark underworld” of the web as described by Suler, 2004. This underworld includes pornography, crime and violence, things most would not pursue in the real world. Studies have shown that people build up a certain detachment from their online activities and real life, for example a study carried out by Niederhoffer and Pennebaker 2002 which was followed by post-experimental interviews found that participants were timid in person after having participated in explicit sexual interaction online in the form of invitations, use of sexual language and sexual graphic imagery.[87] Suler argued that our actions online although may be out of character, are not unlike our personalities, merely parts which don’t often surface within real interaction. Suler believes it to be a cross over between what is culturally relative and acceptable to an individual as well as their psychological dynamics. He believes these factors blur the lines between whether a person engages in positive or negative online disinhibition.[88]. Suler’s work on the disinhibition effect provides “six reasons why people extend their emotional expression of the self while online”[89]. The reasons are as follows:

Dissociative Anonymity[90]

The idea that because the internet allows for individuals to reveal little information about themselves, their actions may have no or little consequence on the other parts of their life. Suler describes this as “the online self” becoming a “compartmentalized self”. This can lead to someone harassing another online as they feel their online identity does not need to portray their own identity thus leading to a lack of civility. An example of this is 'Gamergate'. Drew Harwell notes that 'The confusing, nasty muck of the Gamergate scandal, in which anonymous [online] attackers have harassed and sent death threats to women linked to the video-game industry, has morphed into a bitter culture war over the world's $100 billion gaming empire.' Gamergate online harassment began with a personal attack against 'a female game developer accused of sleeping with a gaming journalist'. It then 'expanded into a crusade for independence in gaming coverage and devolved into a campaign of targeted misogyny against women from some of the vilest corners of the Web.' [91] This attack is an appropriate example of online disinhibition, as crucially, the attacks were 'anonymous' and moreover, the participants were likely acting 'out of character', by causing harassment which they would normally avoid during real social interaction. [92]

Over the years, cyber bullying has been increasingly linked with the ability to send anonymous messages online, with many of these cases originating from the now inactive website Formspring allowed people to set up a profile, where both users and non-users can post messages to profiles anonymously. Cyber bullying victim, Paige Chandler signed up for the service in November 2009, when she was 15 years of age. It wasn't long before she started receiving hateful messages from users who chose to hide their identity through the anonymity function offered by Formspring. Two years after she deleted her account, she told the press "because they were anonymous I suppose they thought they could get away with it".[93]

The latest in anonymous messaging services is new App 'After School'. The description on the App Store declares "After School is an anonymous and private message board for your school. Post confessions, funny experiences, compliments, and more" but the app's innocence has came into question as concerns are raised about cyber bullying with fears that the app's anonymous function leads to disinhibited behavior online which often leads to cyber bullying. As a result of increasing demand, the app was taken off the Apple Store, and then relaunched with extra features set out to protect users from harmful comments, for example, the ability to flag comments for moderators to review and remove from the database. [94]

The controversy surrounding anonymous messaging services serve as an example of how anonymity online can influence users' ability to take into consideration the affects of what they're saying and the consequences involved.


The reasons linked with invisibility are again related somewhat to the idea of anonymity. Suler refers to this invisibility as giving people “courage to go places and do things that they otherwise wouldn’t”. This reason also taps into the lack of non-verbal communication.

Asynchronisicty [96]

This idea centres around the elimination of immediate contact where messages can be posted and possibly never looked at again. Suler compares this to the everyday fantasies which people carry out in their heads i.e. arguments, debates and chat up lines where their imagination does not affect reality.

Solipsistic Introjection [97]

What Suler describes as a merging of mind in “online companions”. The lure of companionship which does not rely on face-to-face interactions eliminates the tells and giveaways associated with tone, expression etc. Online companionship allows for ambiguity within a person’s character to be filled in by the individual.

Dissociative Imagination [98]

The idea that created characters (for example in games) belong in a space different to reality. The idea to be able to leave that space whenever one chooses creates an escapism reality cannot provide. This can often lead to behaviour related to disinhibition as the individual can essentially leave the space in which they are that character behind.

Minimization of Status and Authority [99]

Lines become blurred online as to who has a higher status over whom. An example relates to e-mail conversations between a boss and employee where the authority and status gap cannot be felt the same way as it would in face-to-face scenarios[100].

Other Concepts of Online DisinhibitionEdit

The 'Nasty Effect'

This concept proposes that online disinhibition, particularly abusive and disruptive remarks posted in response to online articles, can have a negative emotional and psychological impact on readers. For example, readers' views can be influenced in regards to the issue discussed in the article depending on whether they were exposed to rude or civil responses in the comments section. In this way, those internet users operating within the private sphere via an online pseudonym have the ability to disrupt public discussion places. [101]

Repercussions of Toxic Disinhibition & ExamplesEdit

Toxic disinhibition actions have become more frequent over time and as a result so have cases of discipline against actions of toxic disinhibition. Disciplinary action being taken against those who have acted with toxic disinhibition could be taken for actions ranging from cyberbullying to threatening people’s lives. There has been a number of high profile examples of this:

Justin Carter, a 19-year-old gamer from Texas was imprisoned for a Facebook comment he made claiming his desire to “shoot up a kindergarden”. The boy and his parents would later claim that his comments were “sarcastic”, and the boy’s mother would start a petition to have her son released. His $500,000 bail would later be posted anonymously.[102][103]

Liam Stacey, a 21 year old student from Pontypridd was imprisoned for 56 days following racist abuse posted on Twitter towards former English footballer Fabrice Muamba. [104]

Garron Helm, a 21 year old from Litherland was sentenced to four weeks in prison after sending anti-semitic posts on Twitter to Labour MP Luciana Berger.[105]

Isabella Sorley, a 23 year old who was imprisoned for sending abusive tweets to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.[106]

Swatting, a form of trolling where a live stream's IP address will be tracked down by a hacker who then proceeds to phone the police claiming that a terrorist act is taking place at the house address. The action of SWAT teams investigating the premises while heavily armed is then broadcasted on the victim's live stream. Recently Brandon Wilson was arrested for his part in 'Swatting' various people. The arrest took place on the same day Joshua Peters was swatted during his Twitch TV stream.[107]

Benign Disinhibition & ExamplesEdit

As mentioned, benign disinhibition is where one shares overly private and personal information online. It often includes exaggerated acts of kindness and selflessness towards others. Some examples include:


Crowdfunding can be described as the practice of funding a project by raising money via contributions from a large number of people. One oft the many sites for crowdfunding is Kickstarter [108] is an online funding platform for creative projects. On Kickstarter, people can sign up, or choose to stay anonymous, and help fund other peoples creative endeavours through donation of money. Kickstarter list their most successful project as the Pebble Time smart watch which has managed to raise $16,494,468 so far. Other popular crowdfunding websites include Indiegogo [109], GoFundMe [110] and Patreon [111].

Indiegogo is another online funding platform, somewhat similar to Kickstarter. Indiegogo report their highest earning campaign as "An hour of code for every student". [112]

Terms & ConditionsEdit

The world wide web is full of terms and conditions, documents full of general or specific rules, requirements and terms of use. These form a binding contract or agreement between the service and the user before access or download. Users get the option to agree or disagree to these terms by ticking a box. They can range from 1 page bullet points to over 30 pages of documents consisting of intentionally complicated legal jargon in deliberately small print in order to encourage clients to skip ahead and and tick that they agree. In the use of websites, these rules are usually referred to as “terms of service” and are mostly in the form of a disclaimer. A survey by the Guardian found that only 7% of people actually read the full terms when purchasing a product or service online, while a fifth said they have suffered from not doing so. Furthermore 43% of those who don’t read the terms and conditions said they are boring or difficult to understand. As a result of ignoring the small print and its difficulty to understand, one in 10 have ended up bound to longer contracts than they thought and one in 20 have lost money by not being able to cancel or amend services they had “agreed” to.[113] In regards to public and private space, this becomes a topic of concern for social media users. For example, Facebook recently made a change to its terms and conditions. They added a new clause which gives Facebook the right to its user's posts, pictures, and everything else on their profile even after it has been deleted. Considering, only 7 percent of people actually read the terms and conditions, not many people would be aware of this change or consent to this change. Since over 175 million people use Facebook, this gives Facebook a lot of power in terms of having access to its consumer's personal information. [114]

Web and News MediaEdit

Acknowledging the rapid expansion of content on the World Wide Web, it is important to consider the significance of the web as a public space for reporting current events. Ease of access to web-based content is shaping the way people consume— and engage with— the news.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Dialogue with News MediaEdit

The Internet has created a participatory space in which private individuals can express themselves through different platforms. It is a space in which people generate dialogue, express opinions, and share experiences. This free public communication is especially significant when it is about current events, and more specifically, how media professionals present these events. The media provides the public with a large amount of information, and they encourage feedback. This feedback usually takes place online. It is common to assume that the web provides a place in which everyone can participate, no matter their demographic or location. However, it is necessary to make further considerations, because in examining the Internet as a public space in which hold meaningful discussions, one can observe both advantages and disadvantages of this communication medium.

1. The Internet provides more information and channels of participation. It seems to encourage better informed citizens, and more informed citizens implies a more educated debate.
2. Private individuals and minority groups have the opportunity to influence public issues.
3. The Internet connects people; it brings together individuals from different locations, cultures, and backgrounds, giving them the opportunity to build a common space for discussion.
4. The Internet can provide anonymity, which may allow more open and honest communication.

5. The speed that the internet can provide and circulate breaking news is extraordinary, speeds which are simply impossible for traditional news media. People now have the opportunity to be up to date with all worldly events at the click of a button, the chance to share new news with others, to collaborate and to share their opinions as soon as it happens.
6. The internet, more notably news providers apps and websites have made it possible to personalize the types of news one receives ensuring that people are entertained and engaged as well as informed, these are some of the most important goals of the news media.

1. Not everyone has access to the Internet, so if a public debate is limited to the web, some voices may not be represented, the elderly are an example of this.
2. The amount of information the Internet provides is huge and fragmented, so it is sometimes difficult to get a comprehensive view of a topic and various perspectives.
3. Although the web allows more interaction between different people, that does not necessarily imply a better understanding between them.
4. Anonymity reduces the impact of one’s contributions. The Internet can provide a feeling of empowerment, but it is often the case that one's comments have a doubtful influence on public issues.
5. The world audience has become more and more fragmented, so the notion of a global public platform in which everyone expresses his or her view is not actually attainable.
6. Anonymity also removes a persons felt obligation to civility. This can make online discussions toxic and unhelpful or at its worst turn to outright harassment, particularly when the discussion is focused on a public figure who can be reached through social media.

7. The most effective circulation of news on the internet, particularly on social media platforms relies on the public to do their part and circulate the news by sharing it with others, commenting and liking pages.

Citizen JournalismEdit

Citizen journalism can be defined as an “act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting and analysing news information, in order to provide independent, reliable and accurate accounts of events towards the public.”[117] Due to the rapid expansion of the World Wide Web and access to devices connected to the internet, Citizen Journalism is highly regarded as being the most efficient way to generate news dialogues. According to the Pew Research Center's “State of the News Media 2014,”[118] statistics show that around “50% of social network users share or report news stories, images or videos, while nearly as many (46%) discuss news issues and events on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.” In addition, according to the same statistical evidence, “roughly one-in-ten social network users have posted news videos they took themselves, 11% of all online news consumers have submitted their own content (including videos, photos, articles or opinion pieces) to news websites or blogs.” The latter 11% of online news consumers that submit their own content are participating in Citizen Journalism.

Citizen Journalism can be very crucial in documenting breaking news, more quickly than news professionals might be able to. One famous example of this is the eyewitness videos capturing the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centres in the United States, an event which reporters were only able to respond to after the first plane attack. More recently, Citizen Journalism played a part in identifying the suspects behind the Boston Marathon bombings, demonstrating how the public can directly contribute to developing news stories.[119] Because of the instantaneity of news generated by citizens, citizen journalism largely facilitates activism. In the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, social media was a very crucial element in organizing and gaining followers for the National Police Day protests.[120] Another example is the Umbrella Movement took place in Hong Kong in 2014, citizens in different occupation areas posted updates in social media sites, and the organizers relied on these news for planning and organizing. Clearly Citizen Journalism comes in many forms and has various effects. In today’s fast-paced media realm, it is of utmost importance for citizen journalists to post relevant, factual information, so as not to mislead the public which wants to trust these individual personalized accounts. Sometimes, professional journalists also take citizen journalism as a source of their reports after verification and check, in this case the news has changed from private to public. In the lead up to the Scottish independence referendum, various companies and media tracking websites were set up in order to fully grasp both sides' arguments for voters, with websites such as Wings of Scotland and National Collective as part of the more high profile accounts of the referendum.[121]

However, citizen journalism is also subjected to criticism, mainly regarding its lack of reliability. Participatory journalism platforms are not subjected to the same regulations as public media and have no obligation to remain objective[122]. People involved in citizen journalism are often not professionals which may also make their pieces less neutral, as well as impair their quality. Critics also mention the fact, that it's often unclear who is responsible for the participatory journalistic content and point out the dangers connected to the lack of accountability. One of the concerns is that the rise of unregulated citizen journalism may lead to people distrusting the media[123]. Citizen journalism is also having a negative impact on more conventional news platforms as in the period between 2000 and 2012 newspapers lost approximately 40% in revenue while reporters were cut by 30%. In the same period newspaper audiences halved in numbers.[124]

Media EventsEdit

Within the internet world and the news coverage, media events are a kind of news that deserves special consideration. Nowadays, anyone new can encourage a public debate, but media events bring together a lot of different people and, therefore, they contribute to create a nearly global public. A media event is a “noun-routine event, organized by elite institutions, staged as a historic occasion, transmitted in real time and watched by large audiences”[125]. Media events include royal weddings, funerals, visits of different leaders, whether political or religious, etc. They are normally transmitted on different media in real time, organized by authorities outside the media, that want to send a message, and watched by huge audiences.[126]These audiences have a key role here, because they are not just the receivers of the message, they also constitute a public that share their opinions, creating, therefore, a public space.


Anonymity, in an online context, allows individuals to interact with the wider world without having to disclose their true identity. Most commonly, this is made possible through the adoption of an online moniker unique to the social platform with which the user is engaging. The privacy afforded by online anonymity is often viewed as having its merits. For example, it enables individuals to discuss social and political issues within an environment in which biases and prejudices cannot affect the ideas and opinions being shared, due to the absence of personal details concerning those involved in the discussion. Anonymity is also valued in that it helps users evade online marketing. Furthermore, it can be seen as having a positive disinhibition effect because it alleviates shyness and social anxiety, encouraging users to be more extroverted than they might be in their day-to-day lives. In a recent study, 65% of respondents stated their main reason for operating anonymously online was to protect their personal information. [127] However, online anonymity has also been lambasted as being the ideal cover for online predators and terrorists. [128] It allows people to attack others online while receiving no repercussions from their actions; this, in turn, can develop into a nasty situation if the identity of the person is then revealed.

Limitations of Online AnonymityEdit

Techniques such as doxing (or doxxing), which essentially enables an internet user to make another user's private details public (e.g. real name, home address, credit card details, etc.), are often used as a means of undermining the anonymity offered by individuals' online monikers. Doxing was popularised by online vigilante group, Anonymous, whose recent utilisation of it has helped expose KKK members. [129] However doxxing has also been used by people as a form of harassment. This use has been brought to mainstream visibility recently with the gamergate controversy, with both sides of the debate being subject to doxing attacks.

Geo-location software, which is capable of pinpointing the location of a user by tracing their IP address, can also be used to circumvent online anonymity. Such social media platforms as Whisper have been scrutinised for using this technology, while encouraging users to share intimate details from an anonymous standpoint. [130] This means that the anonymity of users who are privately engaging with specific public spaces on the web is, to some extent, compromised.

The National Security Agency (NSA) has made it especially difficult for users to maintain complete online anonymity. The NSA’s metadata application, known as MARINA, possesses the power to assemble an online profile of a user, by gathering information including webpages visited and search queries entered via Google; login times and locations when accessing public Wi-Fi services; and the date, time and time zone of emails, as well as their subject matter. [131]

It has recently emerged that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence and security agency, can also undermine online anonymity using certain programs. Those such as ‘SPRING BISHOP’ have the ability to locate private photos of selected targets on Facebook. Another program, codenamed ‘SCRAPHEAP CHALLENGE’, is able to mimic spam emails as a means of tracking individuals. [132]. "According to one study, approximately 87 percent of the population of the United States can be uniquely identified by their Gender, Date of Birth, and 5-digit Zip-code" [133]. Most of this information can be found on various forms of social media so someone's online anonymity can be easily compromised.

Exploits of Online AnonymityEdit

Online 'hackers' make money out of targeting individual social media accounts, claiming to need nothing but a full name and date of birth to hack an account within hours. The main reason for concern is that they do this for a mere one bitcoin, working at an affordable price to all. Therefore, 'hackers' provide an advantage to staying completely anonymous on the web, and encourage people to protect personal details such as your date of birth. Public Facebook profiles, where your date of birth and full name are freely available to all, are thus not advisable. [134]

Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2013 Figure 11.3

In addition to hackers, cyber bullies and online trollers also benefit from online anonymity because they are often able to "hide behind the screen" so their victim doesn't know who they are. Professor Michael Fraser from the UTS Communications Law Centre offers his thoughts on this by saying, "Those people who hide behind a mask of anonymity to abuse or harass or intimidate other people make a claim for freedom of expression, but this in fact is a direct attack on freedom of expression,to bully other people out of the forum so that they’re intimidated and threatened and in fear so they can’t express themselves" [135].

Safeguarding Online AnonymityEdit

Multiple methods can be employed by online users to not only become anonymous, but to remain so. Recent research found that while some individuals simply created different pseudonyms for different online communities, the most common precaution taken by users was to change their IP address. Ways in which this was achieved included the utilisation of proxy servers, virtual private networks (VPNs), and anonymity networks such as Tor. [136] Originally a project initiated by the U.S. government, Tor (The Onion Router) is regarded as one of the most secure options for those users who wish to maintain their anonymity. [137] This free software is particularly renowned for its resilience against the NSA. [138]

There are various types of proxy servers which can be used for reinforcing anonymity. A distorting proxy can modify the user’s original IP address; for example, it may make a deliberately incorrect version available. However, this type of proxy still reveals that a proxy server is being used in the first place. An anonymous proxy shares this same fault, but is advantageous in that it does not make any form of IP address available. Another type of proxy server is a high anonymity proxy – this hides the IP address and the fact that a proxy server is being used. [139]

In the wake of public fallout from 2013's mass surveillance scandals, there is now a consumer market for privacy-oriented products, such as Silent Circle's Blackphone, a smartphone focused on secure, encrypted communication. [140]

Tor & Online AnonymityEdit

Tor is freeware or free software - a browser invented by the US Navy ten years ago, which grants the user anonymity while browsing the world wide web. This browser has become notorious for its ability to provide users with highly-encrypted anonymity. As a result, it has become famously equally for its positive consequences as its negative. As a result, a strong debate surrounding Tor concerning online anonymity has arisen. The software has received significant notoriety as the platform for which users can access 'Deep Web'. [141] [142] Amid the controversy surrounding Deep Web, Tor has also received positive publicity for its use by pro-democracy political activists.

What is Tor?

Tor's powerful encryption abilities have provided online users with unprecedented levels of anonymity. As a result, the very feature which makes the browser notorious has also been a major instrument of political change. Tor has been utilised by activists in order to communicate safely within nations under oppressive political regimes, such as China and Iran. These activists were able to publicise the growing human rights abuses that were occuring in their nation, and discuss them with their countrymen as well as outsiders. [143]

Tor has attracted a large amount of criticism in the media. Notably, a study which showed that over 80 percent of the content available on the Deep Web (accessible via Tor) is related to paedophilia. The study shows that whilst there was a large amount of websites relating to illegal markets such as Silk Road, the largest drug market on the internet, these were completely overshadowed by the amount of child pornography that is available. [144] If this study is any indication, it would appear that such high levels of online anonymity are more-often-than-not used for illegal purposes.

The creators of Tor have responded to such criticism, claiming that such studies cannot be taken simply at face value. They argue instead that the viewing habits of certain users may be distorting the numbers displayed in the study. They argue that rather the study shows the extreme viewing habits of a number of users rather than the study being representative of the majority of Tor users. [145]

Nick Matthewson, chief architect of Tor, explains: —

“Basically, a Tor client makes a hidden service directory request the first time it visits a hidden service that it has not been to in a while. If you spend hours at one hidden service, you make about one hidden service directory request. But if you spend one second each at 100 hidden services, you make about 100 requests. Therefore, obsessive users who visit many sites in a session account for many more of the requests that this study measures than users who visit a smaller number of sites with equal frequency.”


There is large debate in the media over whether high levels of online anonymity, granted by software such as Tor, is a tool for good or evil. The debate continues, with strong arguments from both sides.

Deep WebEdit

Deep Web (also known as the Deepnet,[147] Invisible Web', [148] or Hidden Web[149]) refers to private web spaces on the World Wide Web which cannot be located through conventional methods such as search engines like Google and Yahoo. As a result, it is inaccessible to casual online users. This is due to the fact that these websites exist outside the indexed web, in a largely unexplored territory. Despite this, the full scale of the Deep Web is believed to be five hundred times the size of the surface web. While accessible without Tor, its usage is strongly recommended. The Deep Web is a prominent example of online anonymity and has garnered a reputation as a safe haven for criminal activity and illegal content (i.e. snuff footage, child pornography, etc.). [150] [151] [152]

Diagram of Deep Web

Despite this reputation as a 'safe haven', the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted a number of operations in recent years to crack down on the Deep Web's illegal activity. In October 2013, the FBI conducted a raid on Deep Web drug and illegal activity marketplace Silk Road. The website was taken offline and the operator was arrested and subsequently charged. [153] This first take down of Silk Road shocked many internet users, as they thought the Deep Web marketplace was untouchable. The United States Government demonstrated with this first raid and subsequent raids that there are limits to how much anonymity an individual can have, even on the internet. The owner of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht (known on the Deep Web as Dread Pirate Roberts), was convicted in 2015 of seven charges including money laundering and trafficking narcotics. [154] In 2014, a number of subsequent raids were conducted on Silk Road, which had been reopened by multiple users on the Deep Web. [155] These are the most notable example of government crackdowns, but there have been attempts to tackle illegal activity on the Deep Web since 2013. [156]

The notoriety of Deep Web has grown over the years, and has become fairly well-known in the past few. As a result, debate has been sparked over Deep Web and its users and the extent to which their anonymity should reach. There are principled reasons in favour of maintaining complete anonymity on the Deep Web, with the extremely high level of privacy afforded to users proving beneficial in specific circumstances. For example, journalists are provided with a secure communication line with their audiences, especially in regards to those users who live in countries without safe access to free media (such as Syria). Similarly, online activists may anonymously blog about government corruption without fear of repercussion. Furthermore, civilians are protected from unethical corporations and marketers, as well as identity thieves. With complete anonymity, it is also easier for law enforcement to apprehend those who do abuse the Deep Web. [157] [158]

Yet there are many dangers within the 'Deep Web' concerning online privacy. Much like the surface web, the Deep Web can be compromised. There are numerous limits to anonymity within this online community. In October 2011, cyber vigilante group named Anonymous hacked into a notorious child pornography site known as 'Lolita City'. The account details of 1589 members of the site were shortly published afterwards by the hackers in a campaign dubbed 'Operation Darknet.' The Federal Bureau of Investigation, following the group's lead, began intercepting Deep Web cyber-criminals (largely child pornography distributors) and, after raiding their homes, placed them under arrest. [159] Although the Deep Web has limitations to its anonymity, according to Annie Gaus (a journalist based in San Francisco), Tor can prove to be effective. 'If you use it properly, don’t act stupid, and follow the basic guidelines recommended by project’s administrators, you will almost assuredly remain anonymous.' [160]

Internet as a Public UtilityEdit

The Federal Communications Commission have recently approved new net neutrality rules that restricts US broadband providers and creates a more open and fair public experience online. New rules will prohibit broadband providers from blocking lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, the FCC said. It also bans "paid prioritization," which favors some traffic over others and creates paid Internet "fast lanes." Known in the US as the "Open Internet Order", because it's use of free, publicly available standards that anyone can access and build upon and because it treats all traffic in roughly the same way. The FCC believes the purpose of the "Open Internet" is to make it possible for anyone, anywhere to easily launch new innovative applications and services, revolutionizing the way people communicate, participate, create, and do business. Creating a more equal and open internet than ever before by taking the reigns from the powerful few and placing them in the hands of the masses. Obama said the move encourages innovation and levels the playing field for internet entrepreneurs. Tumbler CEO David Karp agreed saying that the new regulations would ensure "a free and open marketplace of services".

ISPs around the world have long been known to block and throttle users, this means restricting internet services because ISPs are reluctant to give customers access to services which compete with their own, sometimes outright blocking of certain services to avoid any competition. The European commission found that 100 million Europeans face restrictions and unrepresentative content from their ISP in a bid to remain "on top". EC's digital chief has put forward the new net neutrality rules, similar to that of Netherlands and Slovenia that would prevent anti-competitive blocking of rival services and returning the internet to its original public utility purpose. [161][162][163]

The European Parliament has voted in favor of the "net neutrality" proposal [164] which would see regulations put in place which are similar to that of the US FCC's net neutrality regulations,bringing equality, accessibility and flow of streamable online content and services. The proposal would also place a ban on ISPs and mobile networks from blocking apps and services which compete against their own.

However, the openness of the internet is highly debated and there are still some problems to be faced for the proposed legislation. Cable Europe [165] issued a joint press release which expressed concerns regarding the net neutrality debate. The trade bodies commented saying; "Whilst we support an open internet, a set of misconceptions about our industry, together with a rushed legislative process and a lack of technical analysis, risk transforming the Connected Continent Regulation into an anti-innovation and anti-consumer choice legislation" and they threaten that "there will be a lower quality of service for consumers and businesses in Europe". [166]

UK telecommunications giant BT have commented saying that all major ISPs in Britain operate using a "voluntary code" which vows "to treat all traffic consistently, regardless of its source" which already provides "an extremely strong safeguard for the neutrality of the internet".

The proposal has yet to be approved by Europe's Council of Ministers, but a spokeswoman for the European Commission said that if the net neutrality proposal can be cleared, then it could become law by the end of 2015. [167]
In addition, the House of Lords has recently proposed to classify the Internet as a public utility. It is truth that the current UK government has invested in both fixed-line and wireless coverage, but other countries have spent more money and resources. As a result of this, the report emphasizes the position of the UK with regards to other countries, specially in terms of high-speed access (e.g. non-spots urban areas), and highlights the concern of losing international competitiveness. However, it does not say too much about how this will actually work in a legal sense, and this is expected to be an issue for the next UK government.[168][169]

Digital Public SpaceEdit

The project Digital Public Space was first published in 2013 in a publication called 'FutureEverything'. This project outlined the ideas which surround gathering and opening up access to resources of culture and knowledge to all, via the open web.[170]

The publication was developed by FutureEverything in partnership with the BBC and The Creative Exchange. The idea was first discussed in a speech by the BBC's Director of Future Media, Ralph Rivera in 2011 at the World Wide Web Consortium office.[171]

The Digital Public Space project involves a partnership between the BBC and other cultural institutions in the UK, including museums, archives, libraries, galleries and educational bodies, all of who share a vision of not simply using Internet technology as a distribution channel, but instead being part of that digital environment as it evolves: being part of the Web, rather than just on it. According to scholars Hemment and Thomspon (2013) “the central vision of the digital Public Space is to give everyone everywhere unrestricted access to an open resource of culture and knowledge”[172] The ideas outlined within this publication address issues surrounding ownership of cultural heritage and the accessibility to information via the open web.[173]

Why the Digital Public Space Matters

Internet data no longer disappears or becomes erased after a certain amount of time. 'Material that once would have flourished only briefly before being locked up or even thrown away — can now be made available forever. At the BBC we realised that Licence Fee Payers increasingly expect this to be the way of things, and we will soon need to have a very good reason for why anything at all disappears from view or is not permanently accessible in some way or other.' [174] The internet data which the BBC wish to be made available is media which is publicly funded, including all data relating to public materials. Whilst the Digital Public Space in the UK was originally developed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the project soon embraced partners which include: 'Arts Council England, the British Film Institute, the British Library, The National Archives, Jisc (formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee) and a number of other libraries, archives and memory institutions.' [175]


Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in January 3, 2009. Bitcoin is not only a currency like others, but also an entire online payment system, allowing online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.[176] A bitcoin is a chain of digital signatures[177], every transaction is recorded in the chain, so the more frequent the coin is transferred, the longer the chain is. The possession of bitcoins is either by ‘mining’ or transaction.


Mining is a process in which users offer their computer capacity, CPU power and electricity, to verify and record the digital signatures and get a new bitcoin or some transaction fees for reward.


Users can also obtain bitcoins in exchange for goods and services and real money. Since transactions of bitcoins are peer-to-peer without involving any institutions, the transaction fee is usually low or even none, this increased incentive for users to mine and transact with bitcoins.

Private Account / Public TransactionsEdit

Different from traditional transaction using real money or other types or electronic money like credit cards or debit cards, the users in Bitcoin system have their identities hidden. Account names are not seen in the record, but every transaction has its unique signature, the time and size of transaction is also recorded and made public in the node, therefore it is a private but at the same time public process.

Criticism of BitcoinEdit

Since its introduction, there has been many criticisms made against Bitcoin. Many critics have focused on the fact that as the currency is not government regulated, there is perhaps the opportunity to use it for illegal activities. This is perhaps why the currency is in fact banned in many countries around the world including Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Iceland. China's central bank has forbidden financial institutions from handling Bitcoin [178] Critics have also pointed out that Bitcoin is an entirely speculative currency with no real-world intrinsic value to back it up, and so the currency's value is limited only to its use as a medium for transactions. However, with no limit or regulation on the amount of competing, functionally identical crypto-currencies (such as Dogecoin) there is no means to guarantee the currency's value. [179] Bitcoin is a highly unstable currency. Not only is it more vulnerable to fraud, theft and loss through hacking and malware but the actual financial value of the currency volatile. [180] When Bitcoin hit the price of gold in December, a milestone for any currency, it almost immediately fell away again. [181]


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Always on

The notion of being constantly connected and networked with others.[1]


Any interaction a user has on the internet that protects his/her identity from being shared with another user or with a third party[2].

Anonymous (Group)

Originating on the website, 4chan, in 2003, Anonymous is an online vigilante group known for its politically-motivated cyber-attacks. [3]



Refers to a form of virtual currency that enables transactions without the involvement of banks. [4]

Bitcoin - with capitalization, is used when describing the concept of Bitcoin, or the entire network itself. e.g. "I was learning about the Bitcoin protocol today."[5]

bitcoin - without capitalization, is used to describe bitcoins as a unit of account. e.g. "I sent ten bitcoins today."; it is also often abbreviated BTC or XBT. [6]


Citizen Journalism

The collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the internet such as social media sites and blog pages.[7]


Cookies are small text files created by a website that store themselves inside the user’s computer, enabling the website to identify the user and keep track of their preferences. [8]


An act of bulling that takes place through electronic mediums such as computers and mobile through social media websites, texting, forums and other means of communication.[9]


Deep Web

Spaces which cannot be located through conventional methods such as search engines and as a result are inaccessible to casual online users. This is due to the fact that these websites exist outside the indexed web, in a largely unexplored territory. [10]


Also known as doxxing, this technique involves scouring the Internet for the private details (e.g. home address, phone number, real name, etc.) of a specific online user, and making them publicly known. [11]


Economic Surveillance

Refers to the gathering and assessing of information by, usually, social media platforms, who then sell the information to third parties such as advertising clients. [12]


Part of e-business and the term refers to activities involved in buying and selling online, which may include identifying suppliers, selecting products or services, making purchase commitments, completing financial transactions and obtaining services. [13]


Filter Bubble

When search engines collect the history of their users to create personalised results.[14]


A firewall is a network security tool used in computing which allows network traffic to be controlled. The firewall acts as a security barrier between the Local Area Network (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN) in order to prevent potentially harmful content penetrating the “wall” and reaching the LAN.[15]


An abbreviation of 'Fear of Missing Out'. Refers to the anxiety experienced due to an event happening elsewhere which the individual is not part of. This is usually triggered by posts on social media outlets.[16]



Gamergate is a controversial gamer movement associated with much sexism in video game culture. It has gained significant public attention, (particularly online) after August 2014 when several women within the video game industry, primarily game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu and feminist cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian, were subjected to a ongoing campaign of misogynistic attacks. These attacks, initially performed under the Twitter hashtag #gamergate, were later variously coordinated in the online chat forums of Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan in an anonymous and 'amorphous' movement. The harassment included doxing, threats of rape, and death threats, including a threat of a mass shooting at a university speaking event. Gamergate on Wikipedia



Gaining unauthorised or private data from a computer system, or altering the system in some way without permission. Can also refer to access to someone's phone system such as voice-mails without permission.[17]


Refers to the hash key (#). The ‘hashtag’ function is used on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to denote keywords and popular topics, converting them into clickable links leading to other posts which have used the exact same hashtag as that initially clicked on.[18]

Hero, Hub, Hygiene

A strategy designed by the video-sharing website YouTube to encourage and help companies achieve online popularity by generating a constant stream of online content as opposed t relaying on the concept of 'the viral video'. [19]



A storage facility for music, photos, contacts and other various documents on Apple's servers. The contents is stored from Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Windows computer devices.[20]


Local Area Network

A Local Area Network, often abbreviated as LAN, is a computer network which is hosted within a small area, such as a home, school or library. The computers on the LAN are interconnected meaning they can share data and hardware devices such as printers and scanners. [21]


Media event

It is a happening with certain importance for the collective memory. It is a specific event, organized by a determined institution, presented as a historic occasion, and followed by large audiences in real time[22].


A set of data that describes and gives information about other data. [23]



The National Security Agency (NSA) is a United States intelligence agency responsible for global monitoring, collection, decoding, translation and analysis of information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. The agency is authorized to accomplish its mission through clandestine means, among which are bugging electronic systems and allegedly engaging in sabotage through subversive software. [24]


Private Space

A space that is usually accessible to very few people, for example government sites online.

Proxy Server

A server that functions as a mediator between a computer and the Internet. Organisations often use proxy servers as a means of filtering access to certain websites within the workplace, while casual users often resort to a proxy server for privacy and anonymous browsing. [25]

Public Space

A space that is usually accessible to everybody, such as libraries, roads, and most government land. Can now be used to mean public forums and online social pages.



The monitoring of computer activity and data stored on a hard drive, often carried out by governments and corporations.


A form of trolling where a live stream's IP address will be tracked down by a hacker who then proceeds to phone the police claiming that a terrorist act is taking place at the house address. The action of SWAT teams investigating the premises while heavily armed is then broadcasted on the victim's live stream. [26]



Tor is free software for enabling anonymous communication. The name is an acronym derived from the original software project name The Onion Router. [27]


The act of posting offensive, annoying, malicious or off-topic comments on the internet intentionally, usually to cause harm or trouble.[28]


User created content (UCC)
Internet users that made their own content[29].

User generated content(UGC)
Internet users that share content generated by others[30].



(Of an image, video, piece of information, etc.) circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another. [31]


A VPN (virtual private network) is configured within a public network, such as the Internet, and uses data encryption to maintain privacy, allowing for secure connections between remote computers. [32]


Wide Area Network

A Wide Area Network, often abbreviated as WAN, is a computer network which can cover long distances of area. The Internet is perhaps the best example of a WAN.[33]

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