The Value of Privacy. Philosophical Investigation
Over the last years, a number of governmental projects involving new information technologies, which enable the government to collect and process ever more data about citizens have been contested in the Netherlands on account of their threat to individuals’ privacy. These include: extended security measures, road-pricing, the OV chip card, the Electronic Child Dossier, the BSN identification number. Academic and political discussions about privacy protection adopt the traditional liberal view of privacy according to which, protection of individual privacy is a means of protecting individual interests, e.g., reputation. This approach has proved a weak basis for protection of privacy in political practice. When individual privacy conflicts with broader social interests like national security, protecting individuals’ privacy seems to be a luxury that society can ill afford and it is often defeated. This research explores the idea that privacy protection advances not only individual interests but also the interests of society as a whole. This approach is theoretically innovative and practically significant. No account of the social value of privacy has been proposed in philosophical literature. In political practice, the idea that protection of privacy is not at society’s expense but for the sake of society might provide a stronger basis for privacy protection.
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