Staples William G. - Encyclopedia of privacy

Author : Staples William G.
Title : Encyclopedia of privacy
Year : 2007

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Preface. On any given day, nearly all of us living in the contemporary United States face situations or engage in practices that have implications for personal privacy. We speak on cellular phones in public places, we log on to networked computers that monitor our activities, we purchase goods and services from companies that keep personalized profiles of our buying habits, and we visit medical professionals who retain important personal health information that we assume is kept secure and not shared with others. These and many other everyday events raise intriguing questions and should prompt us to think seriously about the changing nature of privacy in our information-saturated society. The Encyclopedia of Privacy is a timely, authoritative reference work designed to offer both basic information and insightful analyses of privacy and privacy-related topics and issues. This book is designed with students and the general reader in mind, although professionals in a variety of fields will also find it to be an invaluable quick-reference guide and source of a number of provocative essays. By way of introduction to the topic, readers would do well to first consult two “anchor” essays offered here: Professor Judith DeCew’s wide-ranging treatise on the philosophical foundations of privacy and Professor Anita Allen’s insightful entry on the definition of privacy. DeCew traces the deep roots of privacy in the West, from Aristotle through the major political traditions, most of which have assumed and theorized some form of distinction between the public and the private. In the context of modern philosophical debates, DeCew sees several different privacy “camps” that she characterizes as “reductionist,” “coherentist,” and “feminist.” Reductionists deny that there is anything coherent or analytically distinctive or useful about privacy, and generally assert that “privacy rights” are always overlapping with, and may be fully explained by, other property rights or rights to bodily security. Alternatively, coherentists defend the fundamental value of privacy as, as some claim, helping to define our essence as human beings and to protect us against demeaning intrusions and affronts to human dignity. Finally, the feminist critique reminds us that that there is a potential “dark side” to an unwavering defense of the special status of privacy rights, since these rights may actually be detrimental to women and others by being used as a shield to mask and maintain power, control, and abuse. ...

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