Did the NSA and GCHQ Diminish Our Privacy? What the Control Account Should Say

Moral Philosophy and Politics 7 (1):29-48 (2020)
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A standard account of privacy says that it is essentially a kind of control over personal information. Many privacy scholars have argued against this claim by relying on so-called threatened loss cases. In these cases, personal information about an agent is easily available to another person, but not accessed. Critics contend that control accounts have the implausible implication that the privacy of the relevant agent is diminished in threatened loss cases. Recently, threatened loss cases have become important because Edward Snowden’s revelation of how the NSA and GCHQ collected Internet and mobile phone data presents us with a gigantic, real-life threatened loss case. In this paper, I will defend the control account of privacy against the argument that is based on threatened loss cases. I will do so by developing a new version of the control account that implies that the agents’ privacy is not diminished in threatened loss cases.

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Leonhard Menges
University of Salzburg


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