The watcher and the watched: Social judgments about privacy in a public place

Batya Friedman, Peter H. Kahn, Jennifer Hagman, Rachel L. Severson, Brian Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Digitally capturing and displaying real-time images of people in public places raises concerns for individual privacy. Applying principles of Value Sensitive Design, we conducted two studies of people's social judgments about this topic. In Study I, 750 people were surveyed as they walked through a public plaza that was being captured by a HDTV camera and displayed in real-time in the office of a building overlooking the plaza. In Study II, 120 individuals were interviewed about the same topic. Moreover, Study II controlled for whether the participant was a direct stakeholder of the technology (inside the office watching people on the HDTV large-plasma display window) or an indirect stake-holder (being watched in the public venue). Taking both studies together, results showed the following: (a) the majority of participants upheld some modicum of privacy in public; (b) people's privacy judgments were not a one-dimensional construct, but often involved considerations based on physical harm, psychological wellbeing, and informed consent; and (c) more women than men expressed concerns about the installation, and, unlike the men, equally brought forward their concerns whether they were The Watcher or The Watched.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-272
Number of pages38
JournalHuman-Computer Interaction
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


Dive into the research topics of 'The watcher and the watched: Social judgments about privacy in a public place'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this