Friday, April 24, 2009

Talking Privacy

Librarians met with diverse focus groups across the US to ask what concerns people have about privacy. We heard that privacy is a right necessary to human dignity and individual integrity, but it is personal and individual. Many folks commented on the gossip that pervades media and affects our concept of privacy.

People fear that partial and mis-information will result in them being misjudged. At the same time, people use new technology to learn more about others to protect themselves. New technology has heightened awareness of privacy implications. Privacy within a family and especially between a parent and child is judged differently.

Some say privacy is lost because we no longer know how to protect it. Others question “what are you trying to hide?” Many would trade privacy for convenience and convenience for security. Still others make a connection from privacy to financial security, health care, and employment prospects. The people who want government protection of privacy don’t trust the government’s intentions or ability to foil hackers. Though public safety and national security are invoked in opposition to privacy, people recognize that security is necessary to protect privacy.

The outcome of these focus group discussions is an ‘issue map’ that presents three alternatives for who or what could be in charge of protecting privacy: the marketplace, the government, or the individual (“my self”).

The full Privacy Issue Map is available here.

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