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Ethical Issues in Computer
Science
CSCI 328, Fall 2013
Session 12
Privacy
1
Privacy in IT societies
What's new?
What's different about information flow in IT societies from
previous societies?
Previous modes of information flow:
Characteristics of IT information flow:
2
What Else is New?
Tools for Data Mining and Managing Databases.
• Did not emerge in a vacuum (technological determinism)
• Emerged in response to government and corporate
interests.
New Kinds of information.
• Transaction generated information (TGI)
Examples:
Credit card
Clickstream
3
Merging and Mining Data
When different types of information is merged and then mined for
patterns, this can produce new types of information.
Examples:
Clickstream profile
Amazon.com recommendations
Facebook friends--gaydar
4
Other Issues
•Distribution of information is broader and more extensive
than before.
Example: Credit rating.
•Once on a server, information can be bought, sold, given
away or stolen.
•Information endures.
Example: Images on Facebook.
•Errors are very hard to correct.
5
IT Societies are Surveillance
Societies
IT allows people to be easily tracked and monitored.
Examples?
Data can be used to create profiles of individuals.
The data can be "mined" for patterns of behavior.
Questions raised:
What is the value of privacy?
How does surveillance affect us and our society?
6
Why Worry About Privacy?
Arguments for not worrying about privacy:
1. If you aren't doing anything wrong, you don't need to
worry.
Counter-arguments?
7
Privacy is Overrated
Arguments for not worrying about privacy.
2) People easily trade away personal information for benefits.
Therefore they don't value privacy much.
Counter-arguments?
8
Information gathering is good
for you
Arguments for not worrying about privacy.
3) Information gathering is good for companies and their customers.
Companies can offer products tailored to customer's likes and
dislikes.
Example: Mortgage lender can determine whether a person is
likely to pay back a loan.
Companies can target ads or discount offers.
Counter-arguments?
9
Privacy as an Individual Good
The "right to privacy" is legally complicated.
• Based on 1st and 4th amendments
• Protects citizens from intrusion by governments
• Corporations treated like persons
• How do we protect individual's privacy from corporations?
• Privacy act of 1974 legislates some rights.
10
Privacy as a Value
Is privacy an intrinsic or instrumental value?
Fried (1968): Friendship, intimacy and trust cannot develop in
societies under constant surveillance. (E.g. Orwell's 1984)
Rachels (1975): Privacy is required for diversity of
relationships.
Examples?
Control of information about ourselves is important for our
autonomy.
Need to release information about ourselves in some contexts,
but should have control over whether it flows to other places.
11