In the Privacy of Our Streets

In Bryce Newell, Tjerk Timan & Bert-Jaap Koops (eds.), Surveillance, Privacy and Public Space. pp. 16-32 (2018)
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If one lives in a city and wants to be by oneself or have a private conversation with someone else, there are two ways to set about it: either one finds a place of solitude, such as one’s bedroom, or one finds a place crowded enough, public enough, that attention to each person dilutes so much so as to resemble a deserted refuge. Often, one can get more privacy in public places than in the most private of spaces. The home is not always the ideal place to find privacy. Neighbours snoop, children ask questions, and family members judge. When the home suffocates privacy, the only escape is to go out, to the coffee shop, the public square. For centuries, city streets have been the true refuges of the solitaries, the overwhelmed, and the underprivileged. Yet time and again we hear people arguing that we do not have any claim to privacy while on the streets because they are part of the so-called public sphere. The main objective of this chapter is to argue that privacy belongs as much in the streets as it does in the home.

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Carissa Véliz
University of Oxford


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