Resilient nature of privacy online examined in book About the university

Online privacy is still alive and thriving, according to a new book co-authored by a University of Greenwich economic sociologist.

Dr Paola Tubaro, programme leader for PhD and research degrees in the Faculty of Business, and senior lecturer in the Department of International Business & Economics, helps challenge the received wisdom that the large-scale sharing of content and personal details on social media – and the resulting mass surveillance by government – inevitably means the end of privacy as we know it.

In Against the Hypothesis of the End of Privacy, published by Springer, Dr Tubaro and her fellow researchers argue that privacy has not declined, but has become cyclical.

"We were intrigued when we discovered that the hypothesised 'end of privacy' is only one of the possible outcomes of the interactions of social media users – and not necessarily the most likely to occur," Dr Tubaro, who led the research, says. "Over time, average privacy first slightly decreases, only to increase steeply afterwards. Despite an initial surrendering of privacy, a counter-tendency kicks off: social media users start protecting themselves when they feel that their private sphere is threatened."

Her fellow authors are Antonio A. Casilli, from Telecom ParisTech, and Yasaman Sarabi, a PhD student at Greenwich who specialises in organisational network analysis.

After analysing a series of historic conflicts around privacy, the researchers found that online sharing is more strategic and controlled than might be expected. Other findings were that careless 'self-disclosure' is far from being a trend, while social media users are still keen on protecting their personal information.

According to the authors, this book is a first step towards a better understanding of the effects of online privacy, which may help policy-makers plan more successful strategies in the future.

Dr Tubaro is also an expert on social networks and their impact on markets, organisations, consumer choice and health. Her blog is at:

Story by Public Relations

Picture: Dr Paola Tubaro