Underestimating Privacy Risks

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2 Responses

  1. Ryan Calo says:


    Excellent post.

    Joel quotes me in the Times piece as saying that data mining is somehow only harmful if the information is wrong. That is *not* what I said. Data mining and brokerage is harmful when the government buys it to use against its citizens, for instance, and in the surprisingly common instances where companies use data to deny opportunities (or offer worse ones) to current or prospective customers. Not to mention rampant identity theft due to poorly safeguarded data or ill-conceived procedures for authentication.

    As Dan Solove has so importantly argued, the mere fact that all these faceless entities have and use our information in myriad unknown ways enacts a price. It creates a sense of unease, discomfort, and powerlessness that privacy law seems loath to register but that is clearly a privacy harm onto itself.


  2. HR Anderson says:

    I had not seen the Time piece. Thanks for the link. I agree that twenty-first century technologies may, as you say, exacerbate some privacy-related harms (although I’m sure we would differ as to the degree of that exacerbation). However, does it necessarily follow that these activities/problems lead to a net loss for society? We cannot be sure without also considering the many benefits associated with the collection, distribution and use of truthful information, which I attempt to do in another context here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1759374 (Shameless self promotion? Check). I have not considered the case of data mining (that would involve a separate pragmatic balancing, I believe) but I have considered the more general question of whether certain privacy harms are “worth it.” I tend to answer that question in the affirmative but I can see how others reasonably would answer “no.”