Privacy vs. security: Why privacy is not an absolute value or right

In this essay, I consider the relationship between the rights to privacy and security and argue that, in a sense to be made somewhat more precise below, that threats to the right to security outweighs comparable threats to privacy. My argument begins with an assessment of ordinary case judgments and an explanation of the important moral distinction between intrinsic value (i.e., value as an end) and instrumental value (i.e., value as a means), arguing that each approach assigns more moral value, other things being equal, to security interests than to privacy interests. I then consider the issue from with a number of mainstream approaches to normative theories of state legitimacy, including social contract theories (new and old), utilitarian theories, Scanlon's contractualism, and various communitarian theories assign security rights a higher place on the moral hierarchy than privacy rights. I then conclude that, under ordinary intuitions and each of these theories, security interests trump (or outweigh) privacy interests when the two come into “direct” conflict – although I make no attempt to give an algorithm or theory for answering the important question of when these interests come into direct conflict and how to weigh them when, say, minor interests in security conflict with major interests in privacy.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,360
External links
  •   Try with proxy.
  • Through your library Only published papers are available at libraries
    References found in this work BETA

    No references found.

    Citations of this work BETA
    Similar books and articles
    Steven Davis (2009). Is There a Right to Privacy? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90 (4):450-475.
    Lars Øystein Ursin (2008). Biobank Research and the Right to Privacy. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 29 (4):267-285.
    Paul B. Thompson (2001). Privacy, Secrecy and Security. Ethics and Information Technology 3 (1):13-19.

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    74 ( #15,261 of 1,088,810 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    4 ( #24,213 of 1,088,810 )

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature

    Start a new thread
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.