The Struggle Between Liberties and Authorities in the Information Age

Science and Engineering Ethics 21 (5):1125-1138 (2015)
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Abstract

The “struggle between liberties and authorities”, as described by Mill, refers to the tension between individual rights and the rules restricting them that are imposed by public authorities exerting their power over civil society. In this paper I argue that contemporary information societies are experiencing a new form of such a struggle, which now involves liberties and authorities in the cyber-sphere and, more specifically, refers to the tension between cyber-security measures and individual liberties. Ethicists, political philosophers and political scientists have long debated how to strike an ethically sound balance between security measures and individual rights. I argue that such a balance can only be reached once individual rights are clearly defined, and that such a definition cannot prescind from an analysis of individual well-being in the information age. Hence, I propose an analysis of individual well-being which rests on the capability approach, and I then identify a set of rights that individuals should claim for themselves. Finally, I consider a criterion for balancing the proposed set of individual rights with cyber-security measures in the information age

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