On Legal Boundaries, Technologies, and Collapsing Dimensions of Privacy

Politica e Società 3(2), p. 247-264, 2014

12 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2015

See all articles by Bert-Jaap Koops

Bert-Jaap Koops

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

Date Written: April 10, 2014

Abstract

Humans and society need boundaries, and the law is a primary tool for setting boundaries. The boundary-marking concepts that we use to categorise reality and that constitute our symbolic order, fundamentally shape our legal frameworks. But how can boundaries be defined in a technology-pervaded world in which space, self, and society increasingly collapse? This paper aims to show that current and emerging technologies challenge ingrained boundary-marking concepts in law. Can the body still be seen as distinct from its environment? Can private space still be delineated from public space? Through a discussion of technological developments related to human-machine interfaces, the evaporation of the home and public-space surveillance, the paper argues that previously independent dimensions of privacy are collapsing, and that it becomes increasingly meaningless to ask ‘where’ a privacy intrusion takes place. Privacy continues to have a physical element, but this physical element is growing more elusive as it cannot be neatly tied to human persons or specific places. Thus, there is a need to find innovative, non-physical boundary-marking concepts in privacy law. This illustrates that when basic boundary-marking concepts lose their usefulness in providing guidance for human behaviour, the structure on which particular legal systems are built may have to be fundamentally revised.

Keywords: boundary-marking concepts, spatial privacy, bodily integrity, cyborgs, surveillance

JEL Classification: K10, K39, K40, K42, O38

Suggested Citation

Koops, Bert-Jaap, On Legal Boundaries, Technologies, and Collapsing Dimensions of Privacy (April 10, 2014). Politica e Società 3(2), p. 247-264, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2581726

Bert-Jaap Koops (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Prof. Cobbenhagenlaan 221
Tilburg, 5037
Netherlands

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