Priscilla M. Regan, Privacy and the Common Good: Revisited
Comment by: Kenneth Bamberger
Workshop draft abstract:
In Legislating Privacy: Technology, Social Values, and Public Policy (1995), I argued that privacy is not only of value to the individual but also to society in general and I suggested three bases for the social importance of privacy. First that privacy is a common value in that all individuals value some degree of privacy and have some common perceptions about privacy. Second that privacy is a public value in that it has value to the democratic political process. And, third that privacy is a collective value in that technology and market forces are making it hard for any one person to have privacy without all persons having a similar minimum level of privacy.
In this paper, I will first reflect briefly on the major developments that have affected public policy and philosophical thinking about privacy over the last fifteen plus years. Most prominently, these include: (1) the rather dramatic technological changes in online activities including social networking, powerful online search engines, and the quality of the merging of video/data/voice applications; (2) the rise of surveillance activities in the post-9/11 world; and (3) the rapid globalization of cultural, political and economic activities. As our everyday activities become more interconnected and seemingly similar across national boundaries, interests in privacy and information policies more generally tend also to cross these boundaries and provide a shared public and philosophical bond.
Then, I will turn attention to each of the three bases for the social importance of privacy reviewing the new literature that has furthered philosophical thinking on this topic, including works by Helen Nissenbaum, Beate Roessler, and Valerie Steeves.
Finally, I will revisit my thinking on each of the three philosophical bases for privacy – expanding and refining what I mean by each, examining how each has fared over the last fifteen years, analyzing whether each is still a legitimate and solid bases for the social importance of privacy, and considering whether new bases for privacy’s social importance have emerged today. In this section, I am particularly interested in developing more fully both the logic behind privacy as a collective value and the implications for viewing privacy from that perspective.