“What Can I Really Do?” Explaining the Privacy Paradox with Online Apathy

Eszter Hargittai, Alice Marwick


Based on focus group interviews, we considered how young adults’ attitudes about privacy can be reconciled with their online behavior. The “privacy paradox” suggests that young people claim to care about privacy while simultaneously providing a great deal of personal information through social media. Our interviews revealed that young adults do understand and care about the potential risks associated with disclosing information online and engage in at least some privacy-protective behaviors on social media. However, they feel that once information is shared, it is ultimately out of their control. They attribute this to the opaque practices of institutions, the technological affordances of social media, and the concept of networked privacy, which acknowledges that individuals exist in social contexts where others can and do violate their privacy.


focus groups, Internet skills, networked privacy, online apathy, privacy, privacy paradox, young adults

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