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: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7601-3.ch028
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Communication privacy management theory (CPM) was originally developed to explain how individuals control and reveal private information in traditional social interactions. It has since been extended to a number of contexts, most recently to evolving communication technologies and social networking sites. CPM provides a set of theoretical tools to explore the intersection of technology and individual privacy in relationship management. This chapter introduces CPM; privacy is defined, the three primary components and eight axioms of CPM are reviewed, and their application to mediated communication contexts are outlined. Areas for future research are presented.
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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.

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