UPSC Ethics Revision 01 | What is Integrity ? || Examples of Integrity
UPSC Ethics Revision 01 | What is Integrity ? || Examples of Integrity

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Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life 1st Edition

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Privacy is one of the most urgent issues associated with information technology and digital media. This book claims that what people really care about when they complain and protest that privacy has been violated is not the act of sharing information itself―most people understand that this is crucial to social life ―but the inappropriate, improper sharing of information.

Arguing that privacy concerns should not be limited solely to concern about control over personal information, Helen Nissenbaum counters that information ought to be distributed and protected according to norms governing distinct social contexts―whether it be workplace, health care, schools, or among family and friends. She warns that basic distinctions between public and private, informing many current privacy policies, in fact obscure more than they clarify. In truth, contemporary information systems should alarm us only when they function without regard for social norms and values, and thereby weaken the fabric of social life.

Editorial Reviews


“[S]ubtle and important . . . There is no doubt that Nissenbaum thinks with the learned . . Before the book appeared Nissenbaum’s work on privacy was already well respected and widely cited. The present book should seal her reputation as one of a handful of leading privacy theorists today. My guess is that the book will be required reading for a long while to come for all who want to make significant contributions to the debate about the ethics of privacy.” — Tony Doyle ― Journal of Value Inquiry

“This much anticipated book, written by one of the world’s most brilliant, dynamic philosophers of technology, offers a model for predicting and explaining privacy breaches. It also furnishes pragmatic solutions for resolving policy disputes about newly proposed socio-technical information systems. It solves puzzles not easily resolved by traditional privacy theory, advances a coherent framework for rejecting the private/public dichotomy as the basis for the right to privacy, and contributes to a deeper understanding of judicial constructs used to resolve hard cases. Helen Nissenbaum has achieved what many of us have yearned for.” — Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology ― University of Ottawa

“This book provides a refreshing, contemporary look at information privacy in the twenty-first century. Nissenbaum persuasively argues that privacy must be understood in its social context, and she provides an insightful and illuminating account of how to do so. For anyone considering the burgeoning problems of information privacy, Privacy in Context is essential reading.” — Daniel J. Solove ― George Washington University Law School and author of Understanding Privacy

“Nissenbaum has written a badly needed and accessible book that can serve as a guide through the emerging digital maze without demanding that we surrender our right to privacy in return… Her book offers a straightforward and articulate account of the role that privacy plays in a democratic society, the ways in which technology undermines it, and the steps we need to take to ensure that we don’t succumb to the faulty logic of data-hungry corporations.” — Evgeny Morozov ― Times Literary Supplement

“[Privacy in Context] takes the privacy discourse several steps ahead. Nissenbaum sets an ambitious goal and accomplishes it in grand fashion. She proposes a detailed framework to better understand privacy issues and assist in prescribing privacy policies that meets the needs of the 21st century . . . [T]he book breaks new paths. It signals the beginning of a new privacy paradigm (an assessment that will be easier judged in hindsight) and is an important contribution to the growing law and technology literature.” — Michael D. Birnhack ― Jurimetrics

About the Author

Product details

  • Publisher : Stanford Law Books; 1st edition (November 24, 2009)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0804752370
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0804752374
  • Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
  • Dimensions : 6 x 0.77 x 9 inches
  • Best Sellers Rank: #886,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
    • #85 in Computer & Internet Law
    • #115 in Science & Technology Law (Books)
    • #1,250 in Civil Rights & Liberties (Books)
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Top reviews from the United States

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Nissenbaum studied philosophy from bachelors to doctoral, ending up a professor at New York University where she specializes in the philosophy and politics at technology. She laid the foundation for contextual privacy that the Federal Trade Comission has now begun to champion ( She continues to influence governmental and scientific bodies alike, lecturing on her contextual approach to privacy monthly.

But on to the book itself. Nissenbaum does not write to the casual reader—she takes an idea, dissects it, analyzes from several angles (usually citing other philosophers), slowly recreates the original intent in a new light, then masterfully summarizes it in her own way. The book is split into three parts—the first, which I found to be the most engaging section, was a keen description on how information technology has changed the way privacy can be violated. The second remains purely theoretical, describing alternate approaches to privacy and beginning Nissenbaum’s attack on the public/private dichotomy. The third and final part presents in voluminous form her own approach to how violations to privacy should be evaluated.

Though the author’s idea of contextual integrity has in some ways revolutionized the modern consideration of privacy, I struggle to agree with one of the book’s core beliefs: that privacy’s defense lies in social norms and expectations. Society’s expectations for informational flows change rapidly and unpredictably, and I doubt any philosophical theory that settles on popular opinion rather than logic or principles to defend its findings.

In sum, the book has a great discussion on privacy and the ways it can be approached in modern society, however, the read is not for the faint of heart. If you wish for an example of her writing style in a shorter fashion, follow this link:

The book builds on fundamental concepts of privacy, provides examples and builds on legal and philosophical points of view. I am using this book to develop approaches to data privacy for a number of organizations.

If you work in the arena of data privacy or work with data you must read this book. If you are concerned or curious about the issues of data privacy you should read this book.

Her framework will not map to actual law, the process of regulation is too idiosyncratic and reactive for that. But it will help technologists, marketers and consumer advocates understand when and why we feel firm or government’s actions have overstepped the bounds and violated our privacy expectations.

Top reviews from other countries

Contextual integrity is a ‘middle-level’ theory that rests between rights-based philosophy and ‘gritty’ interest brawls on specific issues. It’s meant to address the three dominant venues through which privacy infringements are typically registered: the capacity to monitor and track; aggregation and analysis; and dissemination and publication. She introduces four underlying elements to her framework (roles, activities, norms, values) that are used to define the context within which privacy violations are registered and to understand the particularities of those situations. Arguing that the perceived variability of the nature and extent of the right to privacy emerges as actors bring different perceptions to the same shared context, she offers a broad three-point process (and more nuanced, granular, process as well) to both determine how to adjudicate disagreements and arrive at normatively sound conclusions of how to proceed. Her normative approach ensures that we evade the horns of cultural or moral relativity.

For those who have engaged with Nissembaum’s work over the past decade, you should be pleasantly surprised to see key innovations to her argument: she effectively escapes the pronouncement that the framework of contextual integrity is inherently conservative (and thus problematic in multicultural societies with variable norms being found in particular contexts) and nicely grounds the moral legitimacy of her framework in Dworkin’s philosophy of right. Those unfamiliar with Nissenbaum, or lacking a deep background in philosophy proper, will be delighted with a nuanced, transparent argument that gracefully walks the reader through the text without requiring or presupposing a background in contemporary philosophy of law.

This book will surely prove to be one of the most significant contributions to the literature on privacy, and especially the philosophy of privacy, that has come out in the past few decades. Her policy prescriptions demonstrate how strong, rigorous argumentation can lead to transparent and clear claims on how to adjudicate conflicts surrounding privacy. I’d highly recommend this book to policy-makers, philosophers of privacy and law, and interested lay people alike. y%2C+that+ha

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