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Do Consumers Have to Go Offline to Ensure Their Privacy?

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We are living in a digital world, where connectivity has become a cornerstone of our existence. Social media grants us access to a social life from a distance, the COVID-19 pandemic being a prime example of this. Moreover, 21st century consumers are increasingly relying on digital transactions for almost everything, from purchasing clothes and food to online banking and recreational activities. Wi-Fi access has become essential for most establishments, from restaurants and cafes to schools and shopping centres. But with all this internet access, are we putting ourselves at risk? Behind the scenes we are exposing ourselves to constant surveillance, and limitless data is being gathered for the benefit of social media giants, advertisers and others.

Many issues around privacy are being raised, but to what extent should online consumers be concerned? As part of a new movement called “digital detoxing,” consumers are going offline indefinitely or for certain periods to protect their privacy and escape digital surveillance. However, it is unclear how popular digital detoxing has become, what socio-cultural motivations are driving consumers to go offline, and how this will benefit society and consumers. Do we need to go offline to ensure our privacy or are there alternatives to reduce our risk while benefiting from the convenience of a digital world?

What is this research about?

Professor Mariam Humayun has received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant to study whether digital detoxing is an optimal practice to help consumers reclaim their privacy. She will examine the socio-cultural motivations that drive it, how it is evolving and what new forms of consumption practices will arise.

Project Title: Reclaiming Consumer Privacy: Escapes Through Digital Detoxing

Who will benefit from this research?

This work will help clarify changing trends in digital consumer activity and the factors that are driving consumers to escape digital surveillance. The knowledge gained will help inform research on digital consumer behaviour and reveal the negative aspects of social media consumption. Marketers will benefit from this information in developing more ethical practices. The findings can also help policy makers encourage business innovation to ensure individual consumer privacy. Finally, individuals will benefit by being able to make more informed decisions about their online consumer behaviour.

Learn more about the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grants.

About the Author

Rania Nasrallah a rejoint le bureau de recherche Telfer en 2019. Elle a obtenu son doctorat en médecine à l'Université d'Ottawa et apporte à ce rôle plus de deux décennies d'expérience en recherche. Rania participe à tous les aspects du mandat du Bureau de la recherche et est responsable de fournir un large éventail de services aux membres du corps professoral et aux étudiants de recherche de deuxième et troisième cycle. Elle gère les subventions internes et les bourses d'études, et participe à la stratégie de communication de la recherche. Elle fournit également un soutien aux chercheurs avant l'attribution des subventions afin de maximiser le succès du financement au niveau national et international. En outre, elle travaille en étroite collaboration avec le Vice-doyen à la recherche pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre des stratégies visant à améliorer le financement et la vélocité de la recherche à Telfer, conformément à notre vision pour créer un meilleur Canada et un meilleur monde pour tous.<br/><br/>Rania Nasrallah joined the Telfer Research Office in 2019. She completed her PhD in Medicine at the University of Ottawa and brings over two decades of research experience to this role. Rania is involved in all aspects of the mandate of the Research Office and is responsible for providing a wide range of services to faculty members and research based graduate students. She manages internal grants, student awards, and participates in the research communication strategy. She also provides pre-award support to researchers to optimize funding success nationally and internationally. In addition she works closely with the Vice Dean Research to develop and implement strategies to enhance research funding and intensity at Telfer following our vision to create a better Canada and a better world for all.

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