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Title: Signalling and unravelling : (non)disclosure of HIV status information in sex-social apps used by men who have sex with men
Author: Warner, Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 9359 2286
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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As people’s offline and online social lives become increasingly entwined, the sensitivity of the information people disclose online increases. Personal information is often disclosed through structured disclosure fields (e.g. drop down selections). This thesis explores privacy and disclosure attitudes and behaviours around these types of fields within the context of HIV status disclosure in sex-social apps used by men who have sex with men (MSM). Mixed methods were used to understand user attitudes towards, and privacy and disclosure behaviours around, these fields. These included an analysis of online comments related to Grindr’s HIV status disclosure field, semi-structured interviews with people living with HIV and HIV negative app users, and an online study simulating a dating app environment to better understand how HIV status non-disclosures affect people’s evaluation of online dating profiles. Analysis of online comments suggests that these fields may be susceptible to a social effect known as privacy unravelling. This can result in those not disclosing being perceived as hiding some unfavourable information, limiting the voluntary nature of these fields. Analysis of the interview data using signalling theory found support for privacy unravelling, and identified a potential benefit of this effect which allows for indirect forms of disclosure. Analysis of the interview data using motivation theory to understand why users choose to disclose their HIV status within these sex-social environments highlights the failure of these fields to support narrative rich forms of disclosure. Measuring privacy unravelling in the final study found that its effect can be limited by reducing the visibility of undisclosed information fields, but that minority groups may continue to be affected by privacy unravelling, irrespective of the visibility of the undisclosed information field. This thesis highlights how the loss of a rich narrative around HIV disclosures can reduce motivation to disclose. It shows how privacy unravelling can limit the voluntary nature of structured disclosure fields, and how design can reduce this effect. Finally, it contributes new insights into how social technologies can be appropriated through the evolution of new meaning around digital artefacts to enable indirect forms of sensitive information disclosure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available