Kieron O’Hara
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Community values versus privacy
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Privacy has sometimes been seen, for example in Confucian thought, and by communitarians such as Amitai Etzioni, as problematic for communities, by undermining security, stability and equality. Anonymity can be a cloak for anti-social behaviour. Richard Posner has argued that information is a public good, information asymmetries harmful and privacy should be paid for. Blackmail, on this account, may be less harmful than concealing the secret. Concerned citizens, informed of their fellows’ affairs, can police communities better than an external policing agency. Protections for the environment will require surveillance, as do technological methods for making urban spaces (smart cities) more efficient or equitable. Ultimately, openness itself can be seen as a primary value, delivering many social benefits, while its costs are overplayed, as argued by Jeff Jarvis. However, this chapter argues that this communitarian view, often summarised as ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’, diminishes the protections of the citizen disproportionately. It may be intended only to use information for the public good, but mission creep means it will be used in the future for growing numbers of purposes. It is impossible to prevent this happening by writing laws in the present.

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The seven veils of privacy

How our debates about privacy conceal its nature

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