posted Aug 24, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for Traditional Privacy Broken Down. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

I see "traditional" privacy as having two aspects:

I define "surveillance" as "collecting information about people". I deliberately leave out any considerations of "intent". When you accidentally look into your neighbor's window and happen to see them, for the purposes of this essay, that's "surveillance", even though I'd never use the term that way normally. I'd like a more neutral term but I can't think of one that doesn't introduce its own distortions.

The reason I believe intent shouldn't enter into it at the most fundamental level is that the intent of the collector has no effect on the data collected. Nor does the intent of the collector constrain what will be done with the data in the future; police investigations routinely use data that was collected for accounting purposes, such as phone records. Such intent is useful in the context of a specific problem, but it is not worth clouding the issue by trying to make it part of the fundamental part of privacy. "Intent" is a secondary consideration at best. What fundamentally matters is that surveillance has occurred, and information has been collected.

This corresponds pretty strongly with the dictionary definition, but in normal usage with regards to communications issues, there's clearly another aspect as well:

 

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