Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

School of Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

Erik L Collins

Abstract

With more than 30 percent of the world's population now connected to the Internet, online personal privacy has become a top concern among citizens of many nations and regions, and it has become clear that attitudes about and conceptions of online privacy represent a nexus of significant change in the construction of culture and society. These attitudes and conceptions may differ significantly across cultures and national borders, therefore examining different notions of privacy may better enable us to understand the changes underway.

Using a pair of qualitative methodologies, this researcher undertook an exploratory study into two research questions: RQ1) How do Internet users in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam understand and conceive of online personal privacy?, and RQ2) What kinds of personal information are considered confidential to Vietnamese Internet users? Rather than imposing Western definitions of privacy upon local respondents, the researcher attempted to infer a definition of Vietnamese privacy values and conceptions using methods designed to avoid priming respondents with non-local perceptions of the research topic.

The results reveal a more complex conception of personal privacy than those predicted for Vietnam by Hofstede's dimensions of national culture. In Vietnam, privacy appears to be chiefly understood as a means of safeguarding valuable personal data on the Internet from dangerous individuals who seek to obtain it for malign purposes, rather than a fundamental right, an inviolable aspect of self, or a claim by individuals to be left alone and free from surveillance. Vietnamese appear unconcerned about governmental or organizational scrutiny, and seem to have little regard for privacy policies or regulations. In this, the Vietnamese conception of online privacy appears to differ significantly from longstanding notions of privacy that have informed discourse, social practice, and regulatory efforts in the Western hemisphere for more than a century and which continue to influence current debates and policy decisions.

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