Mutual Augmentation of Surveillance Practices on Social Media
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Social media services like Facebook mark the continued domestication of surveillance technology. Facebook has been remarkably successful at establishing a presence within a variety of social settings, including the interpersonal sphere, the academic sector, and the marketplace. As a platform shared by these spheres, Facebook distributes personal information beyond intended contexts. This research will develop a sociological understanding of individual, institutional, and aggregate surveillance through social networking sites. A series of semi-structured face-to-face interviews with students, university administrators and business employees provides a detailed understanding of surveillance practices on Facebook. Three kinds of surveillance are considered. First, lateral – or peer-to-peer – surveillance refers to interpersonal scrutiny between individuals. Second, institutional surveillance is the scrutiny of key populations by universities and other institutions. Third, aggregated surveillance is used primarily by businesses to study relevant markets. I propose that mutual augmentation exists between individual, institutional, and aggregate forms of surveillance on social media. These three models are situated within the same informational platform. By sharing not only the same information, but also the same interface used to access that information, formerly discrete surveillance practices feed off one another. New personal details, criteria, and searching techniques become common knowledge. Marketers and institutions now benefit from ‘user-generated value’ when individuals exchange relevant information amongst themselves. Likewise, university-age users have adopted new criteria like ‘employability’ and ‘liability’ to assess their peers as well as themselves.