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Privacy and the Question of Technology

57 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012  

Lisa M. Austin

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2002


Technology is not simply eroding our privacy — it may also be forcing us to rethink what we mean by privacy. Increasingly, what we are worried about are practices that involve collecting, using and disclosing information that is not sensitive or intimate and that is increasingly collected in public — concerns that do not easily fall within the domain of traditional privacy theory. This article argues that technology need to force us to reinvent privacy although we must sharpen and clarify what we mean by privacy and why we are concerned about losses of privacy. The account I offer takes being subject to the public gaze as the paradigmatic case of a privacy loss and argues that insulation from the public gaze protects two important aspects of individuality. This account provides a justification for privacy that accomplishes several goals: it takes us beyond simply appeals to social conventions, and it allows us to more clearly differentiate between privacy and the reasons why privacy may be overridden, as well as between privacy and emerging issues regarding information uses and misuses that are not best described as privacy issues — problem that I argue plague alternative accounts.

Keywords: privacy

Suggested Citation

Austin, Lisa M., Privacy and the Question of Technology (September 1, 2002). Law and Philosophy, Vol. 22, 2003. Available at SSRN:

Lisa M. Austin (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5

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