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Privacy as Contextual Integrity

Helen Nissenbaum is Associate Professor in the Department of Culture and Communication and a Senior Fellow of the Information Law Institute, New York University. She specializes in social, ethical, and political dimensions of information technology. Her published works on privacy, property rights, electronic publication, accountability, the use of computers in education, and values embodied in computer systems have appeared in scholarly journals of philosophy, applied ethics, law, and computer science. She is author of Emotion and Focus (University of Chicago Press), co-editor (with D.J. Johnson) of Computers, Ethics and Social Values (Prentice-Hall), and a founding co-editor of the journal, Ethics and Information Technology (Kluwer Academic Press). Grants from the National Science Foundation and Ford Foundation have supported her research and she has served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation, UNESCO, AAAS, and the ACM.
When Feb 04, 2004
from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, 101 Pattee Library
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HELEN NISSENBAUM

Associate Professor, Departments of Culture and Communication and Computer Science, and Senior Fellow, Information Law Institute, New York University

Helen Nissenbaum is Associate Professor in the Department of Culture and Communication and a Senior Fellow of the Information Law Institute, New York University. She specializes in social, ethical, and political dimensions of information technology. Her published works on privacy, property rights, electronic publication, accountability, the use of computers in education, and values embodied in computer systems have appeared in scholarly journals of philosophy, applied ethics, law, and computer science. She is author of Emotion and Focus (University of Chicago Press), co-editor (with D.J. Johnson) of Computers, Ethics and Social Values (Prentice-Hall), and a founding co-editor of the journal, Ethics and Information Technology (Kluwer Academic Press). Grants from the National Science Foundation and Ford Foundation have supported her research and she has served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation, UNESCO, AAAS, and the ACM.

Before joining NYU, Nissenbaum was a Member of the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Associate Director of Princeton University Center for Human Values, and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. She earned a B.A. (Honors) from the University of Witwatersand, Johannesburg and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University.

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Privacy as Contextual Integrity

The practices of public surveillance, which include the monitoring of individuals in public through a variety of media (e.g. video, data, online), are among the least understood and controversial challenges to privacy in an age of information technologies. The fragmentary nature of privacy policy in the US reflects not only the oppositional pulls of diverse vested interests, but also the ambivalence of unsettled intuitions on such mundane phenomena as shoppers’ cards, CCTV, biometrics, and so on. This paper, which extends earlier work on the problem of privacy in public, explains why some of the prominent theoretical approaches to privacy, which were developed over time to meet traditional privacy challenges, yield unsatisfactory conclusions in the case of public surveillance. It posits a new construct, “contextual integrity,” as an alternative benchmark for privacy, to capture the nature of challenges posed by information technologies. Contextual integrity ties adequate protection for privacy to norms of specific contexts, demanding that information gathered and dissemination be appropriate to that context and obey the governing norms of distribution within it. Building on the idea of “spheres of justice,” developed by political philosopher, Michael Walzer, the paper argues that public surveillance violates a right to privacy because it violates contextual integrity; as such, it constitutes injustice and even tyranny.