Charles Raab, Beyond the Privacy Paradigm: Implications for Regulating Surveillance

Charles Raab, Beyond the Privacy Paradigm: Implications for Regulating Surveillance

Comment by: Julie Cohen

PLSC 2012

Workshop draft abstract:

The conventional privacy paradigm can be criticised for its emphasis on an individualistic, rights-based conception of information privacy. It also sets the claims of privacy against the protection of the common good or the public interest, while proponents of the latter tend to set aside the claims of privacy. However, a growing but somewhat diverse body of useful sources exist for an alternative construction of privacy, one that overcomes an ‘individual versus society’ approach by emphasising privacy’s social and public-interest value. The proposed paper aims to take further steps in this direction, building upon the work of other scholars and upon the author’s recent and forthcoming writing. It argues that privacy can be conceptualised in a different way, emphasising the social values of privacy, in order to overcome deficiencies in theory and regulatory practice. Whereas conventional views of individual privacy and of the social and public interest often ignore the complexity of people’s dynamic involvement in public and private relationships, the conceptual alternative is grounded not so much in rights discourse as in social-scientific analysis of the multi-level social relationships in which individuals and groups engage. Insights can be gained by considering the effect of surveillance practices not only on the individual’s privacy understood conventionally, but also on her relationships within groups and categories of persons as collective data subjects. The paper looks at some of the policy and regulatory consequences of this conceptualisation. These include expanding the assessment of the impact of privacy – a current regulatory measure – into ways of assessing surveillance’s impact on these further values and collective data subjects. This is not to argue that individual privacy’s importance as a human right should be disregarded, but that it is insufficient for a comprehensive regulation of surveillance in the ‘information society’.