Privacy in the United States: Some Implications for Design
Christena Nippert-Eng


In the United States, "privacy" largely centers on the degree to which an individual feels in control over the accessibility of whatever she or he feels is "private." I explore this conceptualization of privacy, drawing primarily on the work of U.S. scholars as well as an ethnographic study including 74 mostly middle and upper-middle class individuals who were interviewed from June 2001-December 2002. I examine the ways in which participants try to achieve privacy as they pursue the principle of "selective disclosure and concealment." I conclude that 1) the affordance of such selectivity may be a key element when it comes to objects, environments, services, and technological systems designed for the U.S., 2) it is important to use familiar (local), easily understood and manipulated mechanisms and metaphors when designing for privacy, 3) notions of privacy may vary widely, and if privacy is an important design consideration, deeper, local understandings of what it means and how it is normally achieved are necessary, and 4) at times, designers might benefit from focusing on the ways in which design features give preference to some stakeholders' interests at the expense of others' via the provision or denial of traditional forms of privacy.

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