Social Networking Sites in the Surveillance Society (SNS3)

Project sum: € 267 284
Project host institution: Unified Theory of Information Research Group
Duration: 2010-2013 (30 months)
Project co-ordinator: Christian Fuchs
Funded by Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung/Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Project number P22445-G17
Project Description:
Social networking sites (SNS) are Internet-based platforms that allow users to construct profiles, establish displayed connections with other users, and that support various forms of online communication. Examples are studiVZ, MySpace, or Facebook.

The overall aim of this research project is to study electronic surveillance on social networking sites that are used by Austrian students.
The specific research questions are:
(1) How important are the topics data surveillance and privacy in discussions by SNS users? Which arguments do they use for arguing that they disagree or agree with surveillance on SNS?
(2) Which major advantages and disadvantages of social networking platforms do Austrian students see? What is the role of surveillance and privacy in this context?
(3) Are knowledge and attitude towards surveillance and privacy of Austrian students and their information behaviour on social networking platforms connected?
The research methods employed are qualitative interviewing (for research question 1) and quantitative and qualitative surveys (for research questions 2 and 3).

Theoretical foundations of surveillance and privacy will be systematically elaborated. Interviews with students about their opinions on surveillance, privacy, and surveillance and privacy on SNS will be conducted. A survey that is focusing on students from 18 major Austrian universities as potential respondents will be carried out. We will analyze which major advantages and disadvantages students see in SNS. We will also analyze which role surveillance and privacy play in the context of the advantages and disadvantages that students perceive, how large their knowledge of surveillance is in general (surveillance knowledge index), which attitudes they have towards surveillance (surveillance critique index) and privacy, how much knowledge they have about concrete SNS that are used in Austria, and their information behaviour (advertising settings, privacy settings, etc) about specific SNS. These variables will be correlated in order to find out if and how the surveillance and privacy variables and SNS usage are causally connected.
It will be discussed how perceived surveillance risks can be reduced.
This project is an Austrian contribution to the EU COST Action IS0807 “Living in Surveillance Societies”.

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