Technology and Privacy: The New Landscape

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Privacy is the capacity to negotiate social relationships by controlling access to personal information. As laws, policies, and technological design increasingly structure people’s relationships with social institutions, individual privacy faces new threats and new opportunities. Over the last several years, the realm of technology and privacy has been transformed, creating a landscape that is both dangerous and encouraging. Significant changes include large increases in communications bandwidths; the widespread adoption of computer networking and public-key cryptography; mathematical innovations that promise a vast family of protocols for protecting identity in complex transactions; new digital media that support a wide range of social relationships; a new generation of technologically sophisticated privacy activists; a massive body of practical experience in the development and application of data-protection laws; and the rapid globalization of manufacturing, culture, and policy making.

The essays in this book provide a new conceptual framework for the analysis and debate of privacy policy and for the design and development of information systems. The authors are international experts in the technical, economic, and political aspects of privacy; the book’s strength is its synthesis of the three. The book provides equally strong analyses of privacy issues in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Philip E. Agre, Victoria Bellotti, Colin J. Bennett, Herbert Burkert, Simon G. Davies, David H. Flaherty, Robert Gellman, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, David J. Phillips, Rohan Samarajiva.This series of 10 scholarly essays lays a foundation for understanding the current state of technology-based privacy issues. The diverse group of contributors encompasses the fields of communications, human-computer interaction, law, political science, and sociology. Each contributor provides a capsule view of a privacy concern from a standpoint of where things now stand and what bodes for the future. The book’s most prevalent theme focuses on how advances in cybertechnology have led to greater threats to personal privacy, but have also led to greater promise for privacy protection. For example, editor Philip E. Agre’s opening essay looks at the concept of a “Mirror World,” where computer technology mirrors everything important happening in the real world.

Another contributor, Victoria Bellotti, examines multimedia environments, where work environments are wired for video and audio communication, and how individuals within them can be protected from unwelcome eyes and ears. Colin Bennett looks at how much of the world may be moving towards similar privacy protection standards. Other issues include varieties of privacy-enhancing technologies, the challenge of controlling surveillance, the effectiveness of privacy laws, and cryptography. The final chapter, “Interactivity as Though Privacy Matters,” belongs to Rohan Samarajiva, who looks at the prospects for limited consensual surveillance between vendors and customers.

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