Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life

By Helen Nissenbaum | Go to book overview

PART III
THE FRAME WORK OF
CONTEXTUAL INTEGRITY

THE CENTRAL THESIS OF THIS BOOK IS THAT A RIGHT TO privacy is neither a right to secrecy nor a right to control but a right to appropriate flow of personal information. The framework of contextual integrity, developed in Part III, makes rigorous the notion of appropriateness. Privacy may still be posited as an important human right or value worth protecting through law and other means, but what this amounts to is a right to contextual integrity and what this amounts to varies from context to context.

In Chapter 7 I lay out the fundamental building blocks of contextual integrity: social contexts and context-relative informational norms. The norms, which prescribe the flow of personal information in a given context, are a function of the types of information in question; the respective roles of the subject, the sender (who may be the subject), and the recipient of this information, and the principles under which the information is sent or transmitted from the sender to the recipient. When these norms are contravened, we experience this as a violation of privacy, here labeled as a violation of contextual integrity. The problem with many of the controversial socio-technical systems discussed in Part I is that they flout entrenched informational norms and hence threaten contextual integrity.

For the framework of contextual integrity to have moral clout, however, it must offer more than an ability to determine whether

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