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How Privacy Advocates Respond to Piracy Hawks: a rudimentary analysis on public salience

Published on
9 May 2012
Written by
Alexander Furnas

It makes sense that the salience of these two issues would be related. Anti-piracy laws and countermeasures tend to violate traditional privacy norms – indeed they are perhaps the biggest threat to our online privacy these days.

The Google insight chart below shows the relative volume of ‘privacy’ and ‘piracy’ in news headlines since 2008. What we see here is that often after an upward blip in the public salience of piracy, there is a corresponding upward blip in the public salience of privacy (there are, however, spikes in privacy that are seemingly unrelated to piracy salience). This fits with a conception that the public salience of privacy (as measured by media attention) is driven by privacy advocates responding to specific campaigns (like anti-piracy measures) which are threats to privacy.

It is not totally clear what the time-lag here is, however, I adjusted the data to account for a two month lag in privacy salience to quick-check the hypothesis. This leads to a fairly notable correlation (.28) that is statistically significant (p = 0.0000).
A quick regression tells us that, essentially, for every one point increase in the salience of piracy now we can expect a .44 point increase in the salience of privacy two months down the road.