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The Principles of the Communication Privacy Management Theory

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West and Turner (2018) introduce the communication privacy management theory (CPMT) and identify it as a balancing act of revealing and concealing information. This theory reflects similar qualities to the social exchange theory presented in Chapter 9 as they both consider risk and reward. Instead, though, CPMT considers risk and rewards only when sharing information instead of for every interaction. Sandra Petronio, the creator of the theory, divides it into five principles.

Throughout my day-to-day experiences, I experience each principle of CPMT. As I am becoming more aware of current privacy issues on and offline, my privacy ownership is governed by personal boundaries that I have created over time. Privacy ownership refers to the idea that I own my own private information and private information control allows for the establishment of boundaries. These lines are dependent on both my core and catalyst criteria.

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My core criteria are criteria that are “more resilient and often function in the background“. These factors include my prior experiences, stereotypes and norms that I follow, and my own personality. For example, I do not give out my phone number on social media based on prior experiences that have gone poorly as well as norms that I follow. As a woman, I have to be more conscious of my safety and therefore must restrict my private boundary. However, catalyst criteria exist as a fluid set of reasons for a personal boundary as well.

Catalyst criteria can be the idea of risk and reward and motivations that would cause my personal boundary to shift. If I felt that loosening my personal boundary would benefit my current situation or long-term goals, I would adapt and consider giving my cell phone number away via media. These criteria allow me to entertain the next principle of CPMT where an individual decides how to control their personal boundaries. Adopting my boundary to incorporate the criteria show the process that I go through in order to decide if I want to provide personal information. While these criteria aid and influence the private information control principle, they dictate the formation of private information rules to be applied to individual situations. As soon as I decide to give someone my phone number, however, I move into the fourth principle of private information co-ownership and guardianship. When I directly give my phone number to someone, we are linked by a boundary linkage with an accompanying sense of trust. This linkage is strong and I usually ask the person not to give out my number without asking me first. However, if they break this link and give my phone number away, then my information no longer belongs to me and I cannot control it due to a weak boundary linkage that occurred when the number was given away. When this person that I placed my trust into gives away my number without consulting me, they create turbulence, the basis for principle five.

West and Turner (2018) define turbulence as occurring when “the rules of boundary coordination are unclear or when people’s expectations for privacy management come into conflict with one another”. When this occurs, I explain my reasoning for the boundary set based on my core and catalyst material to attempt to diffuse the turbulence.

Child and Westermann (2013) discuss the shift in the average age of Facebook users from 33 years old to 38 years of age. This shift, combined with examination of relationships on media, introduced the idea of friending a parent on social media. Using CPMT, a few factors come into play immediately. Private information rules and their dependency on core criteria play an initial role in the decision to friend a parent on Facebook. As the oldest child, I have always been close with my parents and that is reflected in my personality and in the cultural expected dynamic of a family. Due to this, I was already predisposed to changing my privacy boundary and giving in to include my parents in my online life to avoid conflict and maintain the dynamic. While I made the decision to adapt my private information rules as I considered the pros and cons, I find myself restricted by a catalyst criteria now that I have my parents as my friends on Facebook. My motivation for my use of Facebook shifted from informing my friends of my accomplishments to appeasing family members, changing the amount of private information that I share and the way in which I do it.

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