understanding the importance and impact of anonymity and authentication in a networked society
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Privacy Mechanisms and Instant Messaging PDF Print
Privacy Mechanisms and Instant Messaging
By: Jacquelyn Burkell and Rob Carey

Penultimate Draft: Please do not cite, copy or quote without permission.

We conducted a focus group with eight experienced users of MSN Messenger to learn more about the behavioral mechanisms that users of Instant Messaging (IM) employ to obtain desired levels of privacy (Altman, 1977).  We found that people used a wide variety of verbal, paraverbal, spatial and territorial mechanisms to protect their privacy while using MSN, depending on contingencies such as physical location of computer, proximate others, intended recipient(s) of the message, and desired level of information exchange with others in their IM network. Privacy mechanisms in the context of instant messaging are motivated by two general considerations that arise with respect to known and unknown others: 1) limiting the access of others to personal information; 2) limiting intrusions from others.

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