The Harm in Merely Knowing: Privacy, Complicity, Surveillance, and the Self

19 The Journal of Internet Law, 3 (2015)

14 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2016 Last revised: 26 Jul 2017

See all articles by Robert H. Sloan

Robert H. Sloan

University of Illinois at Chicago

Richard Warner

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Current critiques of governmental surveillance focus on the government’s use of information to discourage and prevent behavior of which it disapproves. We focus on what the government knows, not on how it uses what it knows. We argue that massive governmental knowing puts at risk people’s ability to realize those aspects of themselves with which they identify and which they think of as constituting their identity. This is a current, ongoing harm that most people now suffer. The argument in outline: Adequate self-realization requires adequate privacy in public. Adequate privacy in public requires that people voluntarily limit their knowledge of each other as they interact. That requires constant and complex coordination. Shared informational norms facilitate that coordination. Governmental surveillance can, and does, undermine the norm-based coordination on which privacy in public depends and thereby undermines prospects for self-realization.

Keywords: privacy, privacy in public, norms, informational norms, self, self-realization, game theory, coordination games, cooperative games, uncertainty, decision under uncertainty, trust, surveillance, data mining, data collection, predictive analytics, big data

JEL Classification: C70, C71, D81, K39

Suggested Citation

Sloan, Robert H. and Warner, Richard, The Harm in Merely Knowing: Privacy, Complicity, Surveillance, and the Self (2015). 19 The Journal of Internet Law, 3 (2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2722676

Robert H. Sloan

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1200 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

Richard Warner (Contact Author)

Chicago-Kent College of Law ( email )

565 West Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661
United States

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