Kieron O’Hara
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Level 2
Architecture and affordances
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The second level of the privacy framework looks at the affordances relevant to privacy of the architecture or structural aspects of an environment. Has it been built to enable or prevent privacy? Is there privacy for subjects as a matter of fact? This includes structural aspects of online, built, personal and social environments. Clothes and buildings provide examples, both concealing and revealing according to design. Bentham’s panopticon is reviewed, a prison environment designed to enable permanent surveillance of prisoners. Many privacy-related architectural aspects have the effect of raising or lowering the costs of a privacy breach. The chapter also considers the phenomenon of obscurity, where access to information, or other types of privacy breaches, are theoretically possible but where the resources required to achieve an intended breach are high and the chances of timely success low. The move from paper files to machine readable and searchable digital files has tended to reduce obscurity.

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The seven veils of privacy

How our debates about privacy conceal its nature


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