A Model of Social Eavesdropping in Communication Networks

Leila Bighash, Kristen S. Alexander, Christina S. Hagen, Andrea B. Hollingshead


Social eavesdropping is the gathering of information from the interactions of 2 or more people, without their expressed knowledge or expressed permission, by a third party who is ostensibly not the target audience. Grounded in uncertainty management, communication networks, and signaling theories, this article presents a theoretical framework for understanding when and how individuals are likely to eavesdrop on the interactions of others. Social eavesdropping can be actively premeditated or passively incidental, the latter spurred by a serendipitous encounter. Propositions derived from the model investigate how accessibility, information value, and social risk influence the likelihood of social eavesdropping.


surveillance, organizational communication, communication networks, uncertainty management, information gathering, privacy

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