The Ethics of Data Privacy

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Privacy has been a concern for as long as we have shared our lives with other people. Clearly, there are aspects of our lives that have special meaning because they are exclusively known to us, experienced by us, or shared with us.

But how do we navigate this concern in the Age of Technology? This book attempts an answer to this question from an ethical perspective. The first chapter sketches an overview of the current data privacy landscape, and argues that this landscape is unprecedented. Our established ways of managing privacy concerns, in other words, no longer suffice – we need to rethink our ethical concepts of privacy. The second chapter lays out a case against one possible ethical approach that currently dominates the debate around data privacy, based on a deliberation of potential harmful consequences. The third chapter proposes an alternative approach: data privacy deserves protection in as far as it is necessary to respect and protect important ethical values, and in particular the value of persons qua persons. Rather than trying to predict and manage harms we hardly understand, we need to define clear ethical motivations and boundaries for how we ought to manage people’s private data. After all, what this comes down to, is the question of how we envision a good life in a world largely defined by technology – now, and in our technosocial future.

Read full introduction to the book

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