The Social Dimensions of Privacy
Generally, privacy is considered to be a thoroughly individualist notion. The value of privacy is understood in terms of individual freedom and individual well-being. The protection and maintenance of privacy is conceived in terms of control and discretion exercised by the individual. This might have two undesirable consequences: Firstly, restricting the value of privacy to individual freedom and well-being seems to encumber finding satisfactory solutions in cases of conflicts between privacy, on the one hand, and collective values, such as security, on the other. Secondly, the interpretation of privacy protection and maintenance in terms of an individuals control over access to their personal information seems to run into difficulties in the face of current and near future technological developments that have an inherent tendency to conceal data that is gathered, stored, and processed about the individual. Therefore, the proposed research tries to develop a normatively adequate and practically feasible account of the social dimensions of privacy. Firstly, we will give an overview and classification of the different ways in which the social dimensions of privacy have been conceptualized in the normative philosophical and academic legal debates up until now. Secondly, building on this analysis and on sociological research, we will propose a new conceptualization of the social dimensions of privacy. This account is meant to enrich and advance the debates on practical, moral and legal dilemmas between privacy and collective values and to help adapt privacy protection to current and future technological developments, thus counterbalancing the currently prevalent focus on individualistic approaches to privacy.
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