Google Research

Public vs. Publicized: Content Use Trends and Privacy Expectations

  • Jessica Staddon
  • Andrew Swerdlow
6th USENIX Workshop on Hot Topics in Security (HotSec '11), USENIX (2011)


From a semantic standpoint, there is a clear differentia- tion between the meanings of public and publicized con- tent. The former includes any content that is accessible by anyone, while the latter emphasizes visibility – publi- cized content is actively made available. As a user’s on- line experience becomes more personalized and data is increasingly pushed rather than pulled, the line between public and publicized content is inevitably blurred. In this position paper, we present quantitative evidence that despite this trend, in some settings users do not antici- pate the use of public content beyond the narrow context in which is was disclosed; they do not anticipate that the content may be publicized. While providing a “publicized” option for data is an important counterpart to the ability to limit access to data (e.g. through access con- trol lists), such an option must be accompanied by both greater user awareness of the ramifications of such an option and by transparency into data usage.

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