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Identity, social status, privacy and face-keeping in digital society

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Digitization of society raises concerns about privacy. This article first describes privacy threats of life-logging. It gives the technically novice reader a quick overview of what information and communication technology (ICT) is currently preparing for society, based on state-of-the art research in the industry laboratories: ubiquitous computing, aware environments, the Internet of Things, and so on. We explain how geolocation systems work and how they can provide detailed accounts of personal activity that will deeply affect privacy. At present, system designers rarely implement privacy-enhancing technologies - we explain why, based on empirical research. On the other hand, users, while expressing concern, do not protect themselves in practice - we list reasons for this. The problem is complex because the very nature of identity and social relations works against protecting personal data; this is the privacy dilemma. At least two key mechanisms in the production of good interaction and in the construction of social status are based on personal data disclosure. Then we discuss the nature of privacy, based on field observation. Privacy loss can be seen as `losing face'. We detail this notion, based on a discussion of the notion of face, and especially the Asian social construct of `Chemyon'. We then propose a new, positive, definition of privacy as `keeping face'. This positive notion can be used to build constructive guidelines for enhancing privacy in systems design, compatible with the way designers perceive their role. These guidelines are presented in an annex, after a short conclusion that advocates a constructive - perhaps risky - role for social science in the construction of future information and communication technology.

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