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Mapping the Territories of Privacy. Textual Analysis of Privacy Frames in American Mainstream News

Federica Fornaciari

In the attempt to shed light on the multifaceted complexity of privacy, this paper explores the frames that emerged in American coverage of privacy since the 1980s. Informed by framing theory, this study assumes that media frames represent an important component of how society approaches and discusses issues. The author collected 2,473 articles covering privacy published in three timeframes. The author identified seven frames of privacy and developed dictionaries to automate frame detection. Then, the author explored the occurrence and co-occurrence of frames combining qualitative and quantitative textual analysis techniques. Results reveal that American media consistently implement four main frames: the value of truth, expected flow, fundamental privacy, and trading privacy. Three secondary frames emerge: privacy is dead, relationships, and users’ responsibility. Results also reveal that the framing of privacy as a fundamental value is declining whereas the portrayal of the commercial value of personal data is increasing.