What to Do When Privacy Is Gone

In D. E. Wittkower (ed.), Computer Ethics - Philosophical Enquiry (CEPE) Proceedings. Norfolk, VA, USA: Old Dominion. pp. 2-8 (2019)
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Today’s ethics of privacy is largely dedicated to defending personal information from big data technologies. This essay goes in the other direction; it considers the struggle to be lost, and explores two strategies for living after privacy is gone. First, total exposure embraces privacy’s decline, and then contributes to the process with transparency. All personal information is shared without reservation. The resulting ethics is explored through a big data version of Robert Nozick’s Experience Machine thought experiment. Second, transient existence responds to privacy’s loss by ceaselessly generating new personal identities, which translates into constantly producing temporarily unviolated private information. The ethics is explored through Gilles Deleuze’s metaphysics of difference applied in linguistic terms to the formation of the self. Comparing the exposure and transience alternatives leads to the conclusion that today’s big data reality splits the traditional ethical link between authenticity and freedom. Exposure provides authenticity, but negates human freedom. Transience provides freedom, but disdains authenticity.
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