Repacking ‘Privacy’ for a Networked World
In this paper we examine the notion of privacy as promoted in the digital economy and how it has been taken up as a design challenge in the fields of CSCW, HCI and Ubiquitous Computing. Against these prevalent views we present an ethnomethodological study of digital privacy practices in 20 homes in the UK and France, concentrating in particular upon people’s use of passwords, their management of digital content, and the controls they exercise over the extent to which the online world at large can penetrate their everyday lives. In explicating digital privacy practices in the home we find an abiding methodological concern amongst members to manage the potential ‘attack surface’ of the digital on everyday life occasioned by interaction in and with the networked world. We also find, as a feature of this methodological preoccupation, that privacy dissolves into a heterogeneous array of relationship management practices. Accordingly we propose that ‘privacy’ has little utility as a focus for design, and suggest instead that a more productive way forward would be to concentrate on supporting people’s evident interest in managing their relationships in and with the networked world.