McGill University

Amy Hasinoff is a postdoctoral fellow funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. Her published work appears in Critical Studies in Media Communication, Feminist Media Studies, and is forthcoming in New Media & Society. She is working on a book about the well-intentioned but problematic responses to sexting in mass media, law, and education.

Mobile sexualities: Consent and privacy in mobile media

By socializing on the Internet and on mobile devices, users deliberately and inadvertently generate personal artifacts and data that, as danah boyd points out, can be persistent, easily replicable, and even searchable. Since mobile media are now part of romantic and sexual relationships, the artifacts of these intimate social interactions’ texts or photos, for example, are especially private.

Yet, there is an interesting contradiction in how we think about the capacity and right to control information. On one hand, there is broad legal and public support for the control of commercially produced information and media. From intellectual property and patent laws to copyright infringement lawsuits, the law and the public seem to generally support companies’ rights to own and control the flow of information and media content they create. At the same time, users are told that ‘information wants to be free,’ that ‘privacy is dead,’ and that giving up control over their information and personal content is necessary for the success and progress of the information economy. Most forms of data mining are legal, governments engage in sophisticated surveillance programs, and some public records that were once difficult to access are now freely available online.

Why does it seem feasible and important to control commercially produced information while limiting the flow of personal information seems practically impossible? I argue that ideas about consent and privacy are being reshaped for the information economy in the interests of media companies rather than individual users. In this paper I offer a model of mobile media that prioritizes consent and points to new ways of thinking about the ownership, distribution, and privacy of personal media content.