The Interplay of Privacy and Identity in Digital Communication

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Tobias Matzner, University of Tübingen, Germany


    Traditionally, privacy has been conceived of as the space where one’s “true self” could be developed and lived – free from external influence and coercion. Feminist critiques of privacy have shown that in fact this amounts to a relegation of all matters of identity to the private. This precludes the politicization of oppressive power relations and discrimination. Yet, I argue, a concept of identity that takes these matters seriously and does away with the atomist subject traditionally related to “the private” should not give up privacy completely. The question what is or should be private structures many of our practices of interaction and communication in which identities are established and maintained. This is particularly salient in digital interaction and communication where warnings to better keep this and that private (often with paternalist undertones) are as common as appeals to give up one’s privacy. Based on an analysis of identity in digital media, I show that the aspects that are kept private or made public contribute substantially to a person’s identity. Consequently, I argue that privacy is not a space for identities but rather a feature of identities. Thus privacy is political from the outset.