📚 Social Network Analysis Methods and Applications



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Privacy Infringement of Social Network Analysis


Definitively, Social Network Analysis (SNA) comprises of all processes associated with the investigation of social structures that makes use of network connections and graph theories in making sense of the information (Otte & Rosseau, 2002). In that regard, a social network is presented or is described to be a group of individuals who come together sharing or exchanging information in a pattern. Hence, examples of social networks include friends and acquaintances (Pinheiro, 2011), kinship, disease or virus transmission pattern, sexual relationship, and social media networks amongst others (Grandjean, 2016). The bottom line in categorizing or identifying an SNA lies in its connectivity from one node to the other. The premise of this research report is to evaluate ramifications of SNA in infringement of privacy.


Numerous applications of SNA exist where the interpretation of the connections between the nodes leads to a development of profound knowledge crucial for the establishment of understanding on the nature of the connections (De Nooy, 2003). One practical application of SNA is in business where SNA proves critical in the analysis of communication network effectiveness either within or without the organization. Consequently, the business can use the results of the SNA to improve on its employee or customer relations, thus, enhancing the performance of the organization. The second application lies in law enforcement whereby SNA can prove critical in deciphering connections between terror and criminal elements by tracing patterns in communication networks (Anherier, Gerhards, & Romo, 1995). As such, the government can then identify key players in criminal gangs and make arrangements for apprehending them through relevant law enforcement agencies.

Thirdly, SNA can prove very necessary in enhancing the use of social media where connections between friends and friends of friends are made through recommendations of friends-of-friends connections. In social sites such as Facebook and Instagram, the use of SNA is quite a popular undertaking (BBC, 2012).  Finally, SNA is also used by network operators, for instance, internet cable, and mobile phone operators with the intention of maximizing or optimizing the structure, capacity, relevance, and efficiency of their services (Freeman, 2006). The question that begs with all such applications of SNA is whether or not people involved have informed consent and whether ramifications for infringement of individual privacy exist. The premise of this research is to propose an investigation into privacy infringement arising from SNA initiatives.


Uses of Social Network Analysis

Topic/ Problem Statement

The more the applications of SNA advance, the more businesses and institutions look to SNA for various data-based solutions. Consequently, the greater the chances that people’s privacy will be violated given that SNA uses personal data mostly without consenting. This research will aim to reveal how the challenge of privacy infringement exists in SNA.

Theoretical Framework

The development of the study borrows its conceptual thinking from the Privacy Regulation Theory (TRT) developed by Irwin Altman in 1975 (Altman, 1975). Altman (1977) further adds that Ideally, the theory explains the reason behind individual’s preference for solitude in some situations and desire for social interactions in others. Social withdrawal as Altman calls it; privacy levels will vary based on context. Therefore, desire to interact or not will constantly change along a continuum openness and closeness in response to different circumstances in space and time (Kaya & Weber, 2003). The theory advances that people feel lonely when isolated and annoyed when crowded. Sentiments by Margulis (2003) advance that privacy regulation is meant to achieve the accurate balance to effectively control openness and closeness of oneself to others (Margulis, 2003). For that reason, the PRT proves critical in evaluating the topic ‘Privacy Infringement of SNA.’ 


SNA presents various benefits in business, industry, retail, government, security agencies, etcetera, as pertains to the usefulness of information generated in developing solutions that are desperately needed. However, such information is often generated at the expense of the privacy of personal data. This research report is dedicated to revealing the privacy infringement risks that exist in SNA with the intention of presenting appropriate recommendations to relevant stakeholders towards improving privacy when using SNA solutions.


Altman, I. (1975). The environment and social behavior. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Altman, I. (1977). Privacy regulation: culturally universal or culturally specific? Journal of Social Issues, 33(3), 66-84. doi:10.1111%2Fj.1540-4560.1977.tb01883.x

Anherier, H., Gerhards, J., & Romo, F. P. (1995). Forms of capital and social structure of fields: Examining Bourdieu’s Social Topography. American Journal of Sociology, 100, 859-903. doi:10.1086%2F230603

BBC. (2012, September 24). Facebook friends mapped by Wolfram Alpha app. BBC News. Retrieved 10 12, 2016, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19699776

De Nooy, W. (2003). Fields and networks: Correspondence analysis and social network analysis in the framework of Field Theory. Poetics, 31, 305-327. doi:10.1016%2Fs0304-422x%2803%2900035-4

Freeman, L. (2006). The Development of Social Network Analysis. Vancouver: Empirical Press.

Grandjean, M. (2016). A social network analysis of Twitter: Mapping the digital humanities community. Congent Arts & Humanities, 3(1), 1171-1458. Retrieved 10 12, 2016, from 10.1080%2F23311983.2016.1171458

Kaya, N., & Weber, M. J. (2003). Cross-cultural differences in the perception of crowding and privacy regulation: American and Turkish students. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23, 301-309. doi:10.1016%2Fs0272-4944%2802%2900087-7

Margulis, S. T. (2003). On the status and contribution of Westin’s and Altman’s Theories of Privacy. Journal of Social Science Issues, 59(2), 411-429. doi:10.1111%2F1540-4560.00071

Otte, E., & Rosseau, R. (2002). Social network analysis: a powerful strategy, also for the information sciences. Journal of Information Science, 28, 441-453. doi:10.1177%2F016555150202800601

Pinheiro, C. A. (2011). Social Network Analysis in Telecommunications. New York : John Wiley & Sons.


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