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Table 5-1:
Three Theories of Privacy
Accessibility Privacy
Privacy is defined in terms of one's
physically "being let alone," or freedom
from intrusion into one's physical space.
Decisional Privacy
Privacy is defined in terms of freedom
from interference in one's choices and
Informational Privacy
Privacy is defined as control over the
flow of one's personal information,
including the transfer and exchange of
that information.
Why is Privacy Important?
 What kind of value is privacy?
 Is it one that is universally valued?
 Is privacy valued mainly in Western industrialized
societies, where greater importance is placed on
 Is privacy something that is valued for its own sake –
i.e., an intrinsic value?
 Is it valued as a means to an end, in which case it
has only instrumental worth?
Is Privacy an Intrinsic or
Instrumental Value?
 Not valued for its own sake.
 But is more than an instrumental value in the sense
that it is necessary (rather than merely contingent) for
achieving important human ends.
 Fried – privacy is necessary for human ends such as
trust and friendship.
 Moor – privacy is an expression of the core value
Privacy as an Important Social Value
 Privacy is important for a diversity of
relationships (from intimate to casual).
 It is important for democracy.
 Privacy is an important social, as well as an
individual, value.
 Regan (1995) – we need to understand the
importance of privacy as a social value.
The Problem of Protecting Privacy
in Public
 Non-Public Personal Information (or NPI) refers to
sensitive information such as in one’s financial and
medical records.
NPI has some legal protection
 Many privacy analysts are now concerned about a
different kind of personal information – Public
Personal Information (or PPI).
PPI is non-confidential and non-intimate in character –
is also being mined.
 Why should the collection of PPI, which is publicly
available information about persons generate
controversies involving privacy?
it might seem that there is little to worry about.
For example, suppose someone learns that that you
are a student at VT, you frequently attend college
basketball games, and you are actively involved in VT
computer science club.
In one sense, the information is personal because it is
about you (as a person);but it is also about what you
do in the public sphere.
PPI (Continued)
 In the past, it would have been difficult to
make a strong case for such legislation
protecting PPI, because lawmakers and
ordinary persons would have seen no need to
protect that kind of personal information.
 Nissenbaum (1997) believes that our earlier
assumptions about the need to protect
privacy in public are no longer tenable
because of a misleading assumption:
There is a realm of public information about
persons to which no privacy norms apply.
PPI (Continued)
 Hypothetical Scenario:
 (a) Shopping at Supermart;
 (b) Shopping at;
 Reveal problems of protecting privacy in
public in an era of information technology and
data mining.
Search Engines and Personal
 Search facilities can be used to gain personal
information about individuals (e.g., the Amy
Boyer example).
 Your Web activities can be catalogued and
referenced by search engines.
 Scenario – using a search engine to locate a
Accessing Public Records via the
 What are public records?
 Why do we have them?
 Traditionally, they were accessed via
hardcopy documents that resided in
municipal buildings.
 Recall the Amy Boyer case.
 Would it have made a difference?
 Another recent case: Handgun Permits
Should that be published?
Some have permits to protect against threats
Accessing Public Records via the
Internet (continued)
 Some “information merchants” believe that because
public records are, by definition, "public," they must
be made available online.
 They reason:
Public records have always been available to the
Public records have always resided in public space.
The Internet is a public space.
Therefore, all of public records ought to be made
available on-line.
Comprehensive Privacy
 Clark argues for a "co-regulatory" model.
 He believes that a successful on-line-privacy
policy must include:
strong legislation;
a privacy oversight commission;
industry self-regulation.
 These must also be accompanied by privacy-
enhancing technologies.
 A "privacy watchdog agency" and sanctions
are also both needed.
Essay Assignment
Topic: Privacy
 Consider computing technologies that secure or
threaten our privacy, such as encryption. Should
we allow technologies that support our ability to
communicate and interact privately without limits
or oversight, or should we set limits on
technologies that insure our privacy?
 Construct an argument (a well-formed essay
using Toulmin structure for arguments) that takes
a position with regard to the question(s)
above. Be sure to consider the readings in
developing the position.
HLN Question
 Should anonymity be allowed on the web?
 Judge orders Google to hand over logs
revealing damaging post on YouTube.
The book 1984 gets mentioned a lot when
we talk about privacy, but there are other
books that address the issue either directly
or as a side point.
The Puppet Masters
by Robert A. Heinlen
The world is under attack by aliens who
can control human minds by attaching
themselves to any part of the body. In
order to counteract this, the government
forces everybody to go essentially naked.
 This seems silly until you look at the
controversy over new "lower-powered"
airport x-ray machines that have just
enough juice to see through clothing to
look for weapons. Apparently the
government, both in this book and in
reality, find security more important than
decency and privacy.
The Light of Other Days
by Arthur C. Clarke.
 Technology is developed that allows people to see anywhere and,
eventually, anytime in the past as well, all from their own home. At
first, the knowledge that anybody could be looking at a person at
any time really freaked people out.
 In a world of glass houses, every act is a public act and the idea
that people could be watching at any time drove some to paranoia.
But it also helped "clean up" the world, since people could be
watching your shady business deal, your affair, or your illegal
It also addresses the ideas of "what is truth in history," since every
person would remember an event a slightly different way. When
the ability to see into the past and see the real truth, it was a
complete revolution compared to the socially constructed and
partially remembered history we have today.
What is privacy if not some simple
right or complex of rights?
 Reiman: Privacy is….
a social ritual or arrangement
necessary to the creation of selves -- require
thoughts, body, actions to be our own.
Imagine societies in which
 you and I can keep nothing secret, but others
 you and I can pierce all secrets and everyone
else is transparent.
 no one can keep secrets.
 everyone can keep secrets at will.
Surprise birthday party?
 someone knowing that it is my birthday
 sharing that information / planning with others
 keeping the planning hidden from me
 secrecy (that would be missing)
in order to have the institution of
birthday parties…to be meaningful
 knowledge of my date of birth has to be
something that I share with some but not
 I regulate "closeness" with others, in part, by
sharing different sorts of information
about myself
major and minor
what I did over the weekend
Privacy is the complex social ritual
 by which others recognize our selves as our
 achieved in part by granting control
over ourselves, our body, our mind
AND over extensions of our selves
my diary
a computer file
information about me in a database
Also in order to have a birthday party,
someone has to care about my birthday,
 expect others to care, expect that I would be touched
by whatever expression of affection is shown through
the giving of a surprise birthday party.
 Those different forms of caring are necessary for
giving meaningful surprise birthday parties.
 those different forms of care are only possible within
an institution of respect for privacy
 Institutions of privacy make possible expressions of
care such as surprise birthday parties or greetings,
as well as the keeping of secrets.
Privacy Quiz
Network Affect
 e.g. John Gilmore's Free S/WAN project.
 The idea is to deploy PC-based boxes that
encrypt your Internet packets (and decrypts
other such users’ packets)
 As each person installs one for their own use,
it becomes more valuable for their
neighbors to install one too, because
there's one more person to use it with.
Because of network effects it is likely that
you play a role in establishing standards
 even if you do not design technological
devices, advocate for public policies
regarding technology, or participate in the
deliberations of bodies that adopt formal
 If you are motivated by care, then the role you
play in establishing standards should be a
consideration in your choices whether to
adopt a technology.
What if everyone believed that law-abiding
citizens should use postcards for their mail?
 If some brave soul tried to assert his privacy
by using an envelope for his mail, it would
draw suspicion.
 Fortunately, everyone protects most of their
mail with an envelope. “Safety in numbers.”
 Analogously, it would be nice if everyone
routinely used encryption for all their e-mail,
innocent or not, so that no one drew
suspicion by asserting their e-mail privacy
with encryption.
 Think of it as a form of solidarity.
social aspects of technological choices
 means seeing that in some of my choices I
am acting not just for myself but "for all
 not in the manner of the philosophers'
categorical imperative, but in the manner of
the economists' network effects
 When we make these choices, we stand in for
others, effectively making choices for them