much stress the need for MP tools.
We discuss some examples of coping
strategies and their shortcomings next
(summarized in Table 1).
One of the offline strategies people
employ before posting an item to
avoid MPCs is trying to anticipate
whether the item could be sensitive
to anyone potentially affected by it. 18
For instance, if Alice and Bob appear
together in a photo but Bob appears
clearly inebriated, then it is likely that
Alice may consider this by either not
posting the photo or sharing it only
with a restricted number of friends.
However, this does not always work, as
sometimes the person posting an item
cannot anticipate the consequences
this may have for others beforehand.
An example is given in Lampinen et al. 18
where a person was congratulated by
a friend about being accepted for a
master’s program via a comment, but
the person had to quickly remove the
comment as he had not yet told his
employer about it and his employer
was also friend of his online. Note even
if the person removed the comment
quickly, there was still the risk his employer may have already noticed the
comment before it was removed.
Users sometimes ask the other co-owners of an item for approval before
sharing it. 18 The problem with this
strategy is that it is done offline without any technical means that could
facilitate this. That is, one would need
to ask permission offline to all people
that may be affected by each and every
item they upload. Also, when someone
did not approve, they would need to
negotiate a solution (for example, reduce the initial audience or decide not
to upload). This would quickly become
an unbearable burden on users.
It has also been observed that teens
cloak their messages and share pho-
tos with inside jokes. 3 For instance,
Boyd and Marwick3 report an example
of a girl writing a post on Facebook
about something she knew only her
close friends would understand, as she
wanted to prevent other friends from
knowing what she actually meant.
The downside of this strategy is that it
clearly does not scale and may not be
feasible for all photos or other types of
items that people would like to share.
For example, a photo about your travel
to Mauritius cannot be easily cloaked
in case you want to share it with some
people but not with others.
As social media proves inadequate
to manage disclosures in MP scenari-
os, some users switch media to share
content using other technologies such
as cloud-based file sharing, instant
messaging, or email attachments. 2
This has the advantage of protecting
not only their own content but also
limiting the privacy risks for others.
There are, however, three main disad-
vantages as well. Firstly, this may be
possible for photos, videos, and so on,
but not for other types of content such
as events or comments. Secondly, us-
ers cannot control which technologies
their friends use; that is, their friends
could still upload photos using social
media without users being able to do
anything about it. Thirdly, these tech-
nologies might also lead to MPCs. For
instance, one user may share a video in
a Whatsapp group in which there are
people with whom other users in the
video would not like to share it.
Users also confirmed that, in the
absence of better ways to manage MP
situations, they actually change and
tightly control their offline behavior.
For example, people behave in a dif-
ferent way when they see a camera
around. 2, 18 If you know a friend likes to
take photos and posts them very often,
you may decide not to hang out with
her to avoid any undesired photos be-
ing posted. This highlights the extent to
which people feel unable to participate
in MP decisions. The effectiveness of this
strategy is again very limited, mainly due
to the pervasiveness of smartphones
and wearable devices, being always
alert and constantly modifying your of-
fline behavior is infeasible.
One of the most interesting strategies perhaps is that users collectively negotiate and achieve offline
agreements and compromises about
what gets posted and to whom it gets
shared. 2, 18, 40 For instance, a group of
friends could agree the photos they
take in a trip can only be shared among
them or with close friends of them.
Interestingly, it turns out users are always very open to consider and accommodate others’ preferences as much as
possible. 18, 40 In addition, research uncovered that users do not want to cause
any deliberate harm to their friends
and will normally listen to reasonable
objections, which also acts as a way
of reaffirming and reciprocating relationships. 40 The main problem with
this strategy, as with many of the other
strategies seen so far, is that it does not
scale. It is impossible for users to be
constantly negotiating with hundreds
of friends about hundreds of photos
without technical aid.
Research on MP Tools
It seems clear considering all the cases
noted here that users actively seek to
work around the problem of not having adequate technical support for MP.
However, the effectiveness of the coping strategies they use for this seems
rather limited according to the drawbacks these strategies have. This has
inspired researchers to design interfaces and computational methods that
empower users to collectively manage
MP in more effective and efficient ways
than the current coping strategies they
are forced to resort to today. Although
research in this area is still in its infancy, there have been a number of proposals that we categorize below into
Table 1. Examples of coping strategies.
Strategy Main Drawbacks
Try to anticipate consequences
Impossible to always anticipate privacy consequences.
Seek approval before posting18 Too much burden on the user that uploads the item.
Inside jokes and cloaking3 It does not scale and it is not feasible for
some types of content.
Alternative sharing media2 MPCs can happen in other media too. Also, one user cannot
control which media others use to share content.
Change offline behavior
when cameras around2, 18
Very difficult due to the pervasiveness
of smartphones and wearables.
Negotiation of a shared policy
with other users2, 18, 40
It could easily become a burden on the users due to the
amount of co-owned content.