What would you rather be a Privacy Have or a Privacy Have-Not?

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Abstract

Privacy is no longer a social norm, or so Mark Zuckerberg is alleged to have stated, and there is certainly increasing evidence of individuals willingly sharing large amounts of personal information via social media and of parents sharenting (sharing news and images of their children online). Individuals are increasingly allowing smart phones and smart devices to monitor their behaviour and their movements. Whilst not all individuals may be aware of the privacy implications of their actions, there are indications that many individuals are happy to trade their privacy for financial or other benefits. It appears too that some individuals willingly accept governments need to undertake societal surveillance, notwithstanding the privacy implications, believing that ‘if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear.’ Nonetheless evidence also exists of individuals who make minimal use of social media, wary of the privacy implications when information is disclosed online. There is evidence too that some individuals object to organisations using their information, that some dislike third parties taking photographs of themselves and their children. It seems that there is, to some extent, a divide between those who consider it important to protect their privacy and those who do not.

Building upon current evidence, this story foretells the future of a society increasingly divided between individuals who value privacy and those who place greater value on other goods such as freedom of expression. It envisages a world in which there is such widespread disagreement about whether an individual can expect to maintain their privacy that a radical solution needs to be introduced.

This story is set in 2040, in a society is comprised of two distinct factions, Privacy Haves and Privacy Havenots. Entirely different laws apply to the two groups, recognising that whilst Privacy Haves wish to preserve their privacy, Privacy Havenots place greater value on their freedom to express themselves. A ‘Privacy Have’ can thus reasonably expect that details of their life will not be publicly available online. They expect to be told when an organisation acquires their personal information and to be able to choose whether and how their information is used. A ‘Privacy Havenot’ by contrast knows that at a click of a button details of their entire life, their family, their relationships, even images of themselves as a foetus, may be revealed. A Privacy Havenot will have been brought up to expect their information to be held and used by businesses and governments and welcomes the income they earn from selling their information.

Through a schoolgirl’s diary entries which explore how society became divided, and what it means to be a Privacy Have, this story challenges the reader to consider how they share information about their own lives and the lives of other family members, and to reflect upon the way that governments and corporations use individuals’ information. It asks the reader to consider whether they would be a Privacy Have or a Privacy Havenot, and whether ultimately they value their privacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTwentyForty: Utopias for a Digital Society
EditorsBenedikt Fecher
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherAlexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society
Pages232-243
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-9821760-0-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-9820242-7-1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

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