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Access to Personal Data in Social Networks : measuring the effectiveness of approaches to regulation (Transfer report)

Haynes, D. (2012). Access to Personal Data in Social Networks : measuring the effectiveness of approaches to regulation (Transfer report) (MPhil to PhD transfer). London, UK: Department of Information Science, City University London.


From 2003 when LinkedIn was launched and 2004 when Facebook started, online Social Networking Services (SNSs) have emerged as a major means of communication for social and business communities. Users enter into an agreement with providers when they sign up to online SNSs. In exchange for access to the features and facilities offered by the SNS, users allow exploitation of their personal data by the service provider. This is not always clear to users at the time and there is a widely-held perception that users are not adequately protected. In the UK, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Communications Act 2003 provide regulatory frameworks for online services. This research sets out to test the hypothesis that law-based regulation alone does not provide adequate protection to users against the risks associated with use of SNSs. This research looks at the mechanisms by which a law-based regulatory framework has been put in place in the UK and compares this with other modes of regulation: self-regulation; regulation by design; and regulation by the way in which users behave. For instance, self-regulation occurs when SNS providers implement privacy policies. An example of design-based regulation occurs when SNSs have data encryption built into the development of their services to protect against unauthorised access to personal data. Users’ behaviour regulates services by means of market pressure and by adopting safe practices such as opting out of general disclosure of personal data, for instance.

This research analyses the effectiveness of these four regulatory modes (Law, self-regulation, design and user behaviour) by assessing their impact on risk to users.

The research also examines attitudes of different stakeholders to the regulatory modes identified. The response of SNS providers and the extent to which they are influenced by legislation gives an alternative perspective on the effectiveness of legislation as a means of regulation.

Publication Type: Report
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Library & Information Science
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