The Liberal Value of Privacy

Law and Philosophy 29 (5):505-534 (2010)
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This paper presents an argument for the value of privacy that is based on a purely negative concept of freedom only. I show that privacy invasions may decrease a person’s negative freedom as well as a person’s knowledge about the negative freedom she possesses. I argue that not only invasions that lead to actual interference, but also invasions that lead to potential interference (many cases of identity theft) constitute actual harm to the invadee’s liberty interests, and I critically examine the courts’ reliance on a principle of ‘no harm, no foul’ in recent data breach cases. Using a number of insights from the psychology of human belief, I also show that the liberal claim for protection of privacy is strengthened by the observation that often the privacy invader cannot be held responsible for the influence on the invadee’s negative freedom.



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Boudewijn de Bruin
University of Groningen

Citations of this work

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References found in this work

How are power and unfreedom related.Ian Carter - 2008 - In Cécile Laborde & John W. Maynor (eds.), Republicanism and Political Theory. Blackwell. pp. 58--82.
Privacy: Its Meaning and Value.Adam D. Moore - 2003 - American Philosophical Quarterly 40 (3):215 - 227.
Imitation, media violence, and freedom of speech.Susan Hurley - 2004 - Philosophical Studies 117 (1-2):165-218.
Liberal and Republican Freedom.Boudewijn de Bruin - 2009 - Journal of Political Philosophy 17 (4):418-439.
Privacy, Autonomy, and Self-Concept.Joseph Kupfer - 1987 - American Philosophical Quarterly 24 (1):81 - 89.

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