Privacy, Privacies and Basic Needs
Privacy has achieved an almost unique position and significance in contemporary social life and debate. It is popularly claimed as a human right of citizens, a universal obligation of governments, agencies and corporations, a basic need for all social intercourse, and most recently, a prized virtue in various mission statements and ethics codes.1 Privacy is perhaps the most high profile public ethics issue today, almost an obsession in individualistic cultures and liberal politics, tagged on as preface or afterword to practically every official and quasi-official document, piously acknowledged at the beginning of all automated call-centre messages. Privacy has quickly become one of the sacred causes of modernity, but as a consequence the value of the idea and efforts to protect or promote it have actually been reduced. Privacy is now losing clout through being so scrupulously invoked by those we depend upon but do not fully trust.
What is privacy and what role should privacy play in our moral and social thinking? In this article I suggest that there are at least five different senses of privacy and that the weight these are given in contemporary social discourse and political policy is often inverse to their actual importance. I argue that these privacies are interrelated in a complex way and that together they are a human right.
Ramsay, H. (2010). Privacy, privacies and basic needs. Heythrop Journal, 51(2), 288–297. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00552.x