The seven veils of privacy

How our debates about privacy conceal its nature

Kieron O’Hara
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In an era of data protection, social networking and surveillance, privacy is an area of major political disagreement and social conflict. Privacy law and regulation is complex and unwieldy. Some influential figures have even argued that privacy is a meaningless concept, others that it is outdated or, in the digital age, ‘impossible’. Almost all commentators agree that privacy is deeply problematic. This book argues that this pessimism is wrong, and that there is remarkably agreement about what privacy is, and its extent. Where we disagree is over our experience of privacy and how much (and when) we value it. The aim of this book is to place the disparate privacy literature (philosophical, legal, political, sociological, historical, technological) in context and to point out areas of agreement, dispute and conceptual confusion. In particular, the aim is to describe seven different privacy discourses that are often confused or elided, concerning: privacy concepts; privacy architectures; the phenomenology of privacy; privacy preferences; social norms; law and regulation; and politics, ethics and rights. Keeping these distinct doesn’t solve all privacy problems but shows the areas of dispute with far greater clarity.

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