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Privacy and Philosophy

New Media and Affective Protocol

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Andrew McStay

What can philosophy tell us about privacy? Quite a lot as it turns out. With Privacy and Philosophy: New Media and Affective Protocol Andrew McStay draws on an array of philosophers to offer a refreshingly novel approach to privacy matters. Against the backdrop and scrutiny of Arendt, Aristotle, Bentham, Brentano, Deleuze, Engels, Heidegger, Hume, Husserl, James, Kant, Latour, Locke, Marx, Mill, Plato, Rorty, Ryle, Sartre, Skinner, Spinoza, Whitehead and Wittgenstein, among others, McStay advances a wealth of new ideas and terminology, from affective breaches to zombie media. Theorizing privacy as an affective principle of interaction between human and non-human actors, McStay progresses to make unique arguments on transparency, the publicness of subjectivity, our contemporary techno-social condition and the nature of empathic media in an age of intentional machines.
Reconstructing our most basic assumptions about privacy, this book is a must-read for theoreticians, empirical analysts, students, those contributing to policy and anyone interested in the steering philosophical ideas that inform their own orientation and thinking about privacy.
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Chapter Three: Liberalism, consent and the problem of seclusion

← 21 | 22 →CHAPTER THREE

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Alongside border-based conceptions, the domain of philosophy most influential on privacy is liberalism, particularly in relation to ideas about rights, non-interference, freedom, autonomy and consent. Indeed, many liberals employ the phraseology of border-based conceptions with Locke, Mill, Constant and de Tocqueville all accounting for liberalism as involving a minimum area of personal freedom that must not be violated. Predicated on frontiers and the protection of personal domains, manufactured divisions are needed to separate public and private. Indeed, many liberals argue that such need for privacy is integral to being human. However, the idea that citizens might have inalienable rights and that limits might be placed on political power was certainly not the case in early modern societies, and while Ancient Greece has been a useful place to begin our philosophical journey on privacy, it is liberal ideas that directly inform contemporary rights-based conceptions of privacy. Be these debates over the right to be forgotten, or to be left alone, privacy is inherently bound up with liberalism.

Historically rights have been from the state but over recent decades this has increasingly involved corporate actors so to comprise a political-economy nexus (forcefully underlined by the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks). Debates about the constitution of consent, whether it can be implied or explicitly stated; the nature of the relationship between people, governments and businesses; and related questions we today take to be indexical of privacy all have their roots in liberalism. ← 22 | 23 → Without understanding this sometimes contradictory but fertile philosophy...

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