Communication Privacy Management and Mediated Communication

Communication Privacy Management and Mediated Communication

Debra L. Worthington (Auburn University, USA) and Margaret Fitch-Hauser (Auburn University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch605
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Communication Privacy Management Theory

Originally developed for interpersonal contexts (Petronio, 1991), research associated with CPM initially focused on social and interpersonal interactions in areas such as family and health communication. (e.g., Petronio, 2006; Petronio & Caughlin, 2005; Petronio, Jones, Morr, 2003).

Petronio (2007) describes CPM theory as “an evidenced-based, applied theory construct to be translatable into practices” (p. 219). The CPM system rests on three elements – privacy ownership, privacy control and privacy turbulence. Eight axioms predict privacy practices (Petronio, 2013). The first two axioms are associated with privacy and the ownership of personal information. Axiom 1 proposes that individuals believe in private ownership of their personal information and in their ability and right to share or protect that information from others. Axiom 2 predicts that when access to private information is granted to others, those gaining access become co-owners of the information, taking on the trust and responsibility that comes with co-ownership.

Axioms 3 – 6 are associated with privacy control. Petronio (2013) described privacy control as the regulating engine for determining the conditions of providing or denying access to private information. Thus, not only do individuals believe they are sole owners of their personal information (i.e., Axiom 1), but they also believe they alone control their personal privacy, even when that information is shared with others (Axiom 3). At the same time, how information is shared is based on the privacy rules individuals develop (Axiom 4). Core and catalyst criteria influence decisions on how and when rules are invoked. Core criteria are the most stable and predictable guidelines for privacy choices, while catalyst criteria result in privacy rule changes based on motivation and risk assessments.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Confidants: Individuals who are given access to private information.

Communication Privacy Management Theory: A theory addressing the tension people experience when choosing what personal information to reveal and what will remain private when interacting with others.

Deliberate Confidants: Individuals who are purposely given private information and readily take on obligations and responsibility associated with co-owning the information.

Reluctant Confidants: Individuals who receive unwanted private information and may experience unwanted feelings of obligation and responsibility.

Boundary Permeability: The level of access, scope, and extent of private information an individual is willing to share with others.

Boundary Turbulence: Occurs when privacy expectations of the original owner of information are not met and a confidentiality breach occurs.

Information Co-Ownership: Occurs when access to private information is granted to others, who then take on the trust and responsibility that comes with co-ownership of previously private information.

Private Information Ownership: The belief that individuals own their personal information and have the ability and right to share or protect that information from others.

Confidentiality Breaches: Occur when privacy expectations of the original owner of information are not met by co-owners of information.

Privacy Boundaries: Personal boundaries separating public and private information. They govern who has control of and access to personal information.

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