This panel convenes together "privacy giants": Professor Alan Westin, whose 1967 book Privacy and Freedom offered a path-breaking theory of privacy as control over personal information; Professor Ruth Gavison, whose 1980 Yale Law Journal article signaled a rival understanding of privacy as access to a person; Professor Spiros Simitis, who was the first data protection commissioner in the world, in the Lande of Hesse, Germany, back in the early 1970s, and finally, Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of EPIC, and a leader of privacy in the non-governmental sector.
Privacy lies at the overlapping area of social norms, economic vectors, legal doctrine and technological developments. It is a complex and rich concept, yet elusive and occasionally overbroad or too vague. Thus, it posits a challenge to policymakers, as well as designers of technological systems, and of course, to us, data subjects.
In this panel, we will look into several vectors, or powers, that shaped the current state of privacy, as unclear as it may be. Especially, we will look into the role that theory, cultural processes and technological developments have played and inter-played in forming contemporary understanding(s) of privacy. Religion, as a sub-set of cultural powers, will be addressed as well.
As for theory, we will question its relevance and the very ability to theorize privacy. Is it possible to reach a privacy theory? What should such a theory cover? Perhaps a bottom-up, case-by-case can provide us with better solutions? Once we do have an agreed-upon theory of privacy, can it withstand the market's increasing and resilient demand for more information? Is privacy still relevant in a dynamic, global networked environment, where there seems to be growing pressure to give up privacy all together? Social processes erode privacy, yet we do occasionally witness public resistance, as the rejection of Google Buzz illustrated last year, or as Facebook users resisted some of its privacy policies.
New technologies keep raising privacy concerns: Warren and Brandeis were concerned with instant photography, telephony placed new concerns on the table, and today, of course, we face an overwhelming range of technologies that conflate threats from the government – the Big Brother image, with the "little sister", namely the market, and even ourselves and our peers, as we venture about in our social networks. How should we address technologies? Should we regulate them? How? What about future technologies, looming on the distant horizon, such as NBIC (the combination of Nano, Bio, Informational and Cognitive) technologies? On the other hand, technologies can assist in protecting privacy. Rotenberg coined the term Privacy Enhancing Technologies in the early 1990s, an idea that has developed in various directions, such as the one advocated by the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Ann Cavoukian, of Privacy by Design.
Finally, religion is another source of special privacy needs, a topic which corresponds with the difficult issues of multi-cultural societies. Should we exempt members of religious minorities from security checks in airports?
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