Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Must Privacy Give Way to Use Regulation? (Helen Nissenbaum)

Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 4:30pm

Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility)
Discussant: Chloé Bakalar (Princeton)

AN INCREASINGLY POPULAR ARGUMENT HOLDS that the projected benefits of Big Data requires a shift away from barring the collection of personal information to regulating its use.  Professor Nissenbaum is skeptical about this reasoning, not only because it plays suspiciously well with the dominant business model of the commercial information industry but also because it rests on misconceptions and ambiguities of key terms. Her paper will seek to unravel the debate between those who continue to see value in protecting privacy and those who would forgo privacy in favor of use regulation instead. There is no denying some of the genuine and unprecedented challenges posed by data science to privacy, but simply letting it go, argues Nissenbaum, will undermine a cornerstone of individual freedom. 

Excerpt: “A vast portion of the data available for computational analysis is concentrated in the hands of a few private, global, commercial entities, including some, such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, with which we interface directly in their provision of services, and also indirectly in their capacities as platforms, operating systems, and intermediaries. There is, of course, a class of global, commercial actors with whom individuals have virtually no direct interface and who hold vast data repositories. Other such entities functioning in the background accruing large data lakes include telecommunications providers, medical insurance companies, and financial institutions (such as banks, credit card providers, and insurance companies), by dint of roles as intermediaries and platforms, sometimes accorded to them through legislation. I question the faith that we the collectors (viz. Apple, Medical Information Bureau, Facebook) are sufficiently identified with we the people (and our political representatives) to be relied upon to pursue knowledge and underwrite decisions that serve us as individuals or, for that matter, the common good.”

HELEN NISSENBAUM is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, and Computer Science at New York University, where she is also Director of the Information Law Institute. Her work spans social, ethical, and political dimensions of information technology and digital media. She has written and edited eight books, including Privacy, Big Data and the Public Good: Frameworks for Engagement, with J. Lane, V. Stodden and S. Bender (2014), Values at Play in Digital Games, with M. Flanagan (2014), and Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life (2010). Her research publications have appeared in journals of philosophy, politics, law, media studies, information studies, and computer science.

This event is co-sponsored by the Annenberg School for Communication.