Privacy vs. Security: Why Privacy is Not an Absolute Value or Right
Kenneth Einar Himma
University of Washington - School of Law
San Diego Law Review, Vol. 45, 2007
In this essay, I consider the relationship between the rights to privacy and security and argue that, in a sense to be made somewhat more precise below, that threats to the right to security outweighs comparable threats to privacy. My argument begins with an assessment of ordinary case judgments and an explanation of the important moral distinction between intrinsic value (i.e., value as an end) and instrumental value (i.e., value as a means), arguing that each approach assigns more moral value, other things being equal, to security interests than to privacy interests. I then consider the issue from with a number of mainstream approaches to normative theories of state legitimacy, including social contract theories (new and old), utilitarian theories, Scanlon's contractualism, and various communitarian theories assign security rights a higher place on the moral hierarchy than privacy rights. I then conclude that, under ordinary intuitions and each of these theories, security interests trump (or outweigh) privacy interests when the two come into "direct" conflict - although I make no attempt to give an algorithm or theory for answering the important question of when these interests come into direct conflict and how to weigh them when, say, minor interests in security conflict with major interests in privacy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 52
Keywords: Privacy, security, rights, morality, utilitarianism, social contract theories, contractualism, communtarianism, legitimacyAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: June 18, 2007 ; Last revised: October 12, 2008
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