Privacy as human flourishing: Could a shift towards virtue ethics strengthen privacy protection in the age of Big Data?

Author:Bart van der Sloot
Position:Researcher at the Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Pages:230-244
SUMMARY

Privacy is commonly seen as an instrumental value in relation to negative freedom, human dignity and personal autonomy. Article 8 ECHR, protecting the right to privacy, was originally coined as a doctrine protecting the negative freedom of citizens in vertical relations, that is between citizen and state. Over the years, the Court has extended privacy protection to horizontal relations and has... (see full summary)

 
FREE EXCERPT
2014
Bart van der Sloot
230
3
Privacy as human flourishing
Could a shift towards virtue ethics strengthen privacy protec-
tion in the age of Big Data?
by Bart van der Sloot, researcher at the Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam, the
Netherlands. This research is part of the project “Privacy as virtue”, which is financed by the Dutch Scientific
Organization (NWO).
© 2014 Bart van der Sloot
Everybody may disseminate this ar ticle by electroni c means and make it available for downlo ad under the terms and
conditions of the Digita l Peer Publishing Licence (DPPL). A copy of the license text may be obtaine d at http://nbn-resolving.
de/urn:nbn:de:0009-dppl-v3-en8 .
Recommended citation: Ba rt van der Sloot, Pr ivacy as human flourishing: Could a shi ft towards virtu e ethics strengthen
privacy prote ction in the age of Big Data? 5 (2014) JIPITEC 230 , para 1.
Abstract: Privacy is commonly seen as an
instrumental value in relation to negative freedom,
human dignity and personal autonomy. Article 8
ECHR, protecting the right to privacy, was originally
coined as a doctrine protecting the negative freedom
of citizens in vertical relations, that is between citizen
and state. Over the years, the Court has extended
privacy protection to horizontal relations and has
gradually accepted that individual autonomy is
an equally important value underlying the right
to privacy. However, in most of the recent cases
regarding Article 8 ECHR, the Court goes beyond
the protection of negative freedom and individual
autonomy and instead focuses self-expression,
personal development and human flourishing.
Accepting this virtue ethical notion, in addition to the
traditional Kantian focus on individual autonomy and
human dignity, as a core value of Article 8 ECHR may
prove vital for the protection of privacy in the age of
Big Data.
A. Introduction
1
With the recent revelations by Snowden about
the NSA, privacy and the value of privacy have
once again moved to the center of public debate.
While some argue that privacy is dead, others feel
that it is now more than ever that privacy needs
protection. What all agree upon is that the concept
and value of privacy need careful rethinking, as
the traditional approach to privacy seems unt
to address the threats posed by Big Data, cloud
computing and proling. Big Data, for the purpose of
this study, is dened as gathering massive amounts
of data without a pre-established goal or purpose,
about an undened number of people, which are
processed on a group or aggregated level through
the use of statistical correlations. A reformulation
of privacy and a shift in its underlying value would
not be a novelty; privacy has changed its meaning,
denition and scope many times. It is quite clear
that in different epochs,1 in different cultures2 and
in different situations,
3
privacy plays a different role.
What makes privacy even more difcult to grasp is
that its value and meaning differs from person to
person; what one would qualify as a violation of his
privacy, the other would disregard as unimportant
and trivial. Consequently, the value of privacy is
difcult to grasp and dene. Moreover, in contrast
to autonomy, freedom, or dignity, which are
commonly ascribed an intrinsic value, in literature,
Keywords: Privacy, Big Data, Negative Freedom, European Convention on Human Rights

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