Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of English
Erika M Sparby
This dissertation uses an intersectional feminist methodology and digital rhetorical analysis to examine data related to direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetics websites. This work seeks to better understand how rhetorical power is distributed asymmetrically through the use of DTC-genetics and through the privacy policies which prescribe user actions on the sites. I detail and advocate for digital rhetorical privacy (DRP), a state of being when a user is confidant their digital data is free from unauthorized observances by nefarious computer technologies and other users. Through analysis I demonstrate that using DTC-genetics technology for police surveillance is an unethical action and a violation of DRP that perpetuates the white-supremacist law enforcement infrastructure in America. Moreover, this dissertation further examines the rhetoric of privacy policies for DTC-genetics companies to explain how they obfuscate critical information, including the various potential uses of DNA data after it is collected and the relationship between DTC-genetics companies and police agencies. This work positions privacy policies as the dynamic rhetorical genre writing instructors can use to teach about the importance of digital privacy in a socially-just society and introduces the Digital Privacy Collective as a resource for instructors interested in these issues. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the project and outline the research questions and exigencies guiding it. In Chapter 2, I present a feminist methodology for interrogating DRP which distinguishes and problematizes the affordances and constraints DRP has upon intersectional experiences. In Chapter 3, I argue that using DTC-genetics for police surveillance is unethical and perpetuates the oppression of marginalized and multiply-marginalized bodies, particularly Black bodies, because it reorganizes power and creates an undesirable precedent. Chapter 4 argues the privacy policies prescribing user actions on DTC-genetics websites perpetuate asymmetrical power dynamics. This chapter seeks to understand the relationship between DTC-genetics and law enforcement surveillance by interrogating the methods police use to collect and circulate genetic material as well as the motivations of police in surveilling marginalized communities. In Chapter 5, I argue instructors should incorporate instruction related to DRP in the writing classroom. I highlight how DTC-genetics privacy policies are an intriguing genre to incorporate in the teaching of writing because the biopolitical technology creates tension in the shift from protecting information online to sharing it with other users. In Chapter 6, I offer The Digital Privacy Collective (digitalprivacycollective.weebly.com) as an interactive, coalitional resource featuring activities, assignments, and lesson plans with an intersectional approach to teaching about DRP in writing classrooms.
Woods, Charles Fletcher, "Interrogating Digital Rhetorical Privacy on Direct-to-Consumer Genetics Websites" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 1479.