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Reassessing the Privacy Paradigm

ONLINE PRIVACY—U.S.

March 30, 2012

In a column for The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal explores the influential privacy philosophy of New York University's Helen Nissenbaum. A recent presentation at Stanford University and her 2010 book Privacy in Context, among others, have contributed to "reshaping the way our country's top regulators think about consumer data," including an influence on the Federal Trade Commission's final privacy report, Madrigal writes. Nissenbaum reframes the privacy paradigm from data control and collection considerations to "the inappropriateness of the flow of information due to the mediation of technology" or what she calls "context-relative informational norms." Rather than placing privacy considerations in a public-private binary, Nissenbaum asserts that context and the social situation need to be considered. "Perhaps most importantly," writes Madrigal, "Nissenbaum's paradigm lays out ways in which sharing can be a good thing."
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