How to protect privacy online is a frequent question in public discourse and has reignited the interest of government actors. In the United States, notice-and-consent remains the fallback approach in online privacy policies, despite its weaknesses. This essay presents an alternative approach, rooted in the theory of contextual integrity. Proposals to improve and fortify notice-and-consent, such as clearer privacy policies and fairer information practices, will not overcome a fundamental flaw in the model, namely, its assumption that individuals can understand all facts relevant to true choice at the moment of pair-wise contracting between individuals and data gatherers.
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This book claims that what people really care about when they complain and protest that privacy has been violated is not the act of sharing information itself—most people understand that this is crucial to social life —but the inappropriate, improper sharing of information. Arguing that privacy concerns should not be limited solely to concern about control over personal information, Helen Nissenbaum counters that information ought to be distributed and protected according to norms governing distinct social contexts—whether it be workplace, health care, schools, or among family and friends.
She warns that basic distinctions between public and private, informing many current privacy policies, in fact obscure more than they clarify. In truth, contemporary information systems should alarm us only when they function without regard for social norms and values, and thereby weaken the fabric of social life. There is no doubt that Nissenbaum thinks with the learned. The present book should seal her reputation as one of a handful of leading privacy theorists today.
My guess is that the book will be required reading for a long while to come for all who want to make significant contributions to the debate about the ethics of privacy. Nissenbaum sets an ambitious goal and accomplishes it in grand fashion. She proposes a detailed framework to better understand privacy issues and assist in prescribing privacy policies that meets the needs of the 21st century. It signals the beginning of a new privacy paradigm an assessment that will be easier judged in hindsight and is an important contribution to the growing law and technology literature.
Birnhack, Jurimetrics "Nissenbaum has written a badly needed and accessible book that can serve as a guide through the emerging digital maze without demanding that we surrender our right to privacy in return Nissenbaum persuasively argues that privacy must be understood in its social context, and she provides an insightful and illuminating account of how to do so.
For anyone considering the burgeoning problems of information privacy, Privacy in Context is essential reading. It is rare for anyone to come into a field so well plowed and make a genuine contribution. Practical and oriented to the world and its social practices, rather than to abstractions or formal claims, contextual integrity is a concept both rich and detailed, with which any serious debate about privacy in the networked environment must now engage. It also furnishes pragmatic solutions for resolving policy disputes about newly proposed socio-technical information systems.
Helen Nissenbaum has achieved what many of us have yearned for.
Privacy in Context - Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life
Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life / Edition 1