Unpopular Privacy: What Must We Hide?

By Anita L. Allen | Go to book overview

1
PRIVACIES NOT WANTED

A man heard rumors around town that his young daughter was living with his ex-wife and her new lover, another woman. Hoping to win legal custody of his daughter, the man sneaked up to his ex-wife’s bedroom window under cover of night with a camera to take photographs of what he deemed “illicit” sex. Needless to say, he violated the lovers’ expectations of privacy, here the physical privacy of the two women’s intimate seclusion. He got sued for it.1

In another case, a physician was approached by an adult adoptee who wanted help finding her biological mother. Knowing that the state would unseal the woman’s official adoption records only if there were a serious reason, the physician armed the woman with a bogus medical excuse. The state accordingly unsealed the records. When identified and located, the adopted woman’s biological mother was not pleased. She had moved on in her life, relying on promises of professional secrecy. The physician violated the birth mother’s expectations of privacy, specifically the informational privacy of traditional, undisclosed adoption. Like the peeping tom ex-husband, the confidentiality breaching doctor got sued.2

The general subject of the essays that comprise this book is what I refer to as physical and informational privacy. My opening examples illustrate real-world invasions of privacy of just these two sorts. Physical privacy is illustrated by the case of the photographed lovers, and informational privacy is illustrated by the case of the uncloaked birth mother. Other examples of physical and informational privacy disputes would call attention to the privacy implications of the World Wide Web and social networking: Google was sued by homeowners who complained that unauthorized vehicles entered a private road to take photographs of their homes that wound up on Google Street View; a medical facility was sued when confidential health information about a patient tested for a sexually transmitted infection after commencing an extramarital affair wound up on a MySpace page where the patient was dubbed “Rotten Candy” and a cheater.3

The law imposes obligations, of course, including obligations to respect others’ privacy. I will try in this book to illuminate the normative bases of lawmaking aimed at promoting and protecting a wide variety of physical and informational privacies, from seclusion and bodily modesty, to confidentiality and electronic data protection. But

-3-

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Unpopular Privacy: What Must We Hide?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Part One - Normative Foundations 1
  • 1- Privacies Not Wanted 3
  • Part Two - Physical Privacies- Seclusion and Concealment 27
  • 2- Seclusion 29
  • 3- Modesty 47
  • 4- Nudity 78
  • Part Three - Information Privacies- Confidentiality and Data Protection 97
  • 5- Confidentiality 99
  • 6- Racial Privacy 123
  • 7- The Electronic Data Give-Away 156
  • 8- Popular Paternalism 173
  • Afterword 195
  • Notes 199
  • Index 249
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