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The 21 century has become the century of Big Data and advanced Information Technology allows for the storage and processing of exabytes of data.
The revelations of Edward Snowden have demonstrated that these worries are real and that the technical capabilities to collect, store and search large quantities of data concerning telephone conversations, internet searches and electronic payment are now in place and are routinely used by government agencies.
They argued that there is a “right to be left alone” based on a principle of “inviolate personality”.
Since the publication of that article, the debate about privacy has been fueled by claims for the right of individuals to determine the extent to which others have access to them (Westin 1967) and claims for the right of society to know about individuals.
We will both illustrate the specific threats that IT and innovations in IT pose for privacy, and indicate how IT might be able to overcome these privacy concerns by being developed in a ‘privacy-sensitive way’.
We will also discuss the role of emerging technologies in the debate, and account for the way in which moral debates are themselves affected by IT.
Discussions about privacy are intertwined with the use of technology.
Having privacy means that others don't know certain private propositions; lacking privacy means that others do know certain private propositions (Blaauw 2013).
Informational privacy in a normative sense refers typically to a non-absolute moral right of persons to have direct or indirect control over access to (1) information about oneself, (2) situations in which others could acquire information about oneself, and (3) technology that can be used to generate, process or disseminate information about oneself.
The debates about privacy are almost always revolving around new technology, ranging from genetics and the extensive study of bio-markers, brain imaging, drones, wearable sensors and sensor networks, social media, smart phones, closed circuit television, to government cybersecurity programs, direct marketing, RFID tags, Big Data, head-mounted displays and search engines.
There are basically two reactions to the flood of new technology and its impact on personal information and privacy: the first reaction, held by many people in IT industry and in R&D, is that we have zero privacy in the digital age and that there is no way we can protect it, so we should get used to the new world and get over it.
The other reaction is that our privacy is more important than ever and that we can and we must attempt to protect it.