Unpopular Privacy: What Must We Hide?

By Anita L. Allen | Go to book overview
Save to active project

8
POPULAR PATERNALISM

When my friend Vincent took a new job, he was dismayed that the company’s desire to stringently protect the privacy of employees’ e-mail meant he could not use his favorite old password at work: “123OceanAve”, the street address of a childhood home. His employer instructed him to select a password that did not contain any word found in the English language dictionary, plus at least four numerals, a mix of four upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet, and an exclamation point. “Zj34uc!91B” met the criteria, but my friend would have preferred to take on the slight risk of someone hacking into his e-mail than to have to memorize a random stream of characters.

Vincent is one of the many people who consider data privacy measures a bother. Their attitudes of annoyance raise questions about the extent to which paternalistic impositions of privacy by particular people or entities in particular contexts are warranted. In Vince’s case the motives for imposing a strong data protection regime on workers were not purely paternalistic. The firm was seeking both self-interestedly to protect the integrity of company data, and paternalistically to protect the privacy of employees’ personal e-mail sent from the office or company webmail. Mandating a secure password is weak paternalism, coercion barely worthy of objection; but mandated data protection can have significant implications for choice, speech and other freedoms.


PATERNALISTIC MANDATES

Paternalism by government is not rare, but requires special warrant. In a society with liberal aspirations, we expect regimes of choice concerning personal information to be preferred over regimes of coercion whenever possible. Indeed, policy makers with free market stripes work especially hard at times to avoid and minimize state coercion. But coercion can be, in a way liberals commend, advantageous to the individuals coerced. Freedom has to be forced on the loyal slave or subservient wife who cannot imagine a better life without a master.

As an example of privacy-related policy making in which the specter of state paternalism raised its head and had to be confronted, in chapter 1 I described how U.S. Federal Trade Commission regulators created an optional Do Not Call registry to give Americans a choice about whether to stop receiving the nightly tsunami of tele

-173-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Unpopular Privacy: What Must We Hide?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 259

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?