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Summary: Helen Nissenbaum’s Privacy in Context, Ch. 4-6

Chapter 4: Locating the Value in Privacy

Ruth Gavison (1980) argues that a neutral conception of privacy, without any inherent value judgements, is important because
it allows us to discuss privacy independently of whether that privacy is good or bad, acknowledging that different levels of
privacy may be better or worse in different contexts

Jeroen van den Hoven identifies four types of moral reasons for why privacy deserves protection:
1. Information-based harm: protects against identity theft and undesirable access to personal information
2. Informational inequality: restricts the ability of governments, corporations, etc. to collect information about
individuals in a one-way, opaque fashion
3. Informational injustice: ensures that information is only used in the appropriate context
4. Encroachment on moral autonomy: allows individuals to independently pursue moral development

Gavison and others argue that, in many areas of personal development and creativity, the freedom from scrutiny that privacy
provides is necessary in order to flourish. The loss of this freedom can be extrinsic or intrinsic:
– Extrinsic loss: when an individual avoids behaviors specifically because they might face ridicule
– Intrinsic loss: internal censorship caused by awareness of being monitored

Chapter 5: Privacy in Private

Discusses ways in which the private/public dichotomy has shaped the definition and application of privacy

Recognition of the private status of certain groups:
Actors: promotes liberty and individual freedom
Realms: provides protections in specific places or spaces
Information: protects private habits, actions, relations, etc. of an individual

Determining what is public or private can be problematic:
– Email, previously thought of as private and personal, is now considered public and open to monitoring
– Social networking profiles contain information that may be private to the individual, but much of it is available to the

Chapter 6: Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Privacy in Public

Skeptic’s points against an important place for privacy:
1. Despite people saying they want privacy, people consistently choose convenience instead
– Sometimes this isn’t a real choice (you often can’t choose not to use a search engine, credit card, etc.)
2. ‘Media exhibitionism’ – people are eager to share their personal information with the world
– In many cases, people may not realize their information is being used, or available at all

Privacy in Public: changes required in conception of groups:
– Actors: limits on private actors violating the privacy of others
– Realms: “reasonable expectation of privacy” is problematic
– Information: some information, despite being publically accessible, still needs to be considered private


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