A contextual approach to privacy online

Helen Nissenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Recent media revelations have demonstrated the extent of third-party tracking and monitoring online, much of it spurred by data aggregation, profiling, and selective targeting. How to protect privacy online is a frequent question in public discourse and has reignited the interest of government actors. In the United States, notice-and-consent remains the fallback approach in online privacy policies, despite its weaknesses. This essay presents an alternative approach, rooted in the theory of contextual integrity. Proposals to improve and fortify notice-and-consent, such as clearer privacy policies and fairer information practices, will not overcome a fundamental flaw in the model, namely, its assumption that individuals can understand all facts relevant to true choice at the moment of pair-wise contracting between individuals and data gatherers. Instead, we must articulate a backdrop of context-specific substantive norms that constrain what information websites can collect, with whom they can share it, and under what conditions it can be shared. In developing this approach, the paper warns that the current bias in conceiving of the Net as a predominantly commercial enterprise seriously limits the privacy agenda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-48
Number of pages17
JournalDaedalus
Volume140
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 3 2011

    Fingerprint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Cite this