Universität Zürich

IKMZ - Department of Communication and Media Research

Media Change & Innovation Division

Andreasstrasse 15
CH-8050 Zurich
Phone +41 (0)44 635 20 92
Fax +41 (0)44 634 49 34

Dataveillance imaginaries and their role in chilling effects online


Kiran Kappeler /

Noemi Festic /

Michael Latzer

International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 179, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2023.103120

The automatic tracing and analysis of personal data on the internet is a common occurrence. So far, the extent of internet users’ sense of such dataveillance and reactions to it remain obscure. This article explores 1) internet users’ dataveillance imaginaries and 2) the role they play for self-inhibited digital communication behaviors in relation to other behavioral responses to a sense of dataveillance. To address these questions, we apply thematic analysis to semi-structured interviews. Our findings show that internet users’ dataveillance imaginaries affect their self-inhibition: Not trusting actors, being aware of advanced workings of dataveillance, being critical of data collecting and monetizing, valuing privacy highly, and evaluating consequences of dataveillance negatively lead to self-inhibition. Such self-inhibition because of a sense of dataveillance, i.e., chilling effects of dataveillance, manifest in not using certain services, not searching for information, and not voicing one's opinion, which is problematic in a democracy. Further behavioral responses to a sense of dataveillance include not changing one's use of services and using privacy enhancing techniques. By shedding light on the role internet users’ dataveillance imaginaries play for their self-inhibition of legitimate digital communication behavior, this article innovatively contributes to the empirical investigation of the chilling effects of dataveillance.