Trust, Transparency and Privacy

  • Mike SheaffEmail author


The chapter demonstrates changing UK government attitudes towards freedom of information through two examples of its use of a veto of information disclosure. These concerned legal advice on the 2003 Iraq war and risk assessments of the 2011 NHS reforms. Under governments of different political persuasion, both involved claims that a ‘private space’ is needed for government deliberations. A discussion on ‘making the private public’ uses examples from feminist challenges to public/private boundaries, and ways professional work has been subject to greater scrutiny and monitoring. A discussion on implications for those engaged in researching decision-making includes Sheaff’s own reflection on his position in the research described in Chap.  5. Sheaff concludes by arguing a role for social research in addressing issues of secrecy, accountability and justice.


Transparency Feminism Chilling-effect Dark secrets Public sociology 


  1. Bachrach, P., & Baratz, M. S. (1962). Two Faces of Power. The American Political Science Review, 56(4), 947–952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benhabib, S. (1992). Situating the Self: Gender, Community and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  3. Birchall, C. (2011). The Politics of Opacity and Openness. Theory, Culture and Society, 28(7), 7–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blair, T. (2010). A Journey. London: Arrow Books.Google Scholar
  5. Blair, T. (2012, July). Letter from the Rt Hon Tony Blair to the Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair, Justice Committee. Post-legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 200.
  6. Blau, J., & Moncada, A. (2009). Sociological Theory and Human Rights: Two Logics, One World. In B. S. Turner (Ed.), The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory (pp. 496–512). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blom-Cooper, L. (1985). A Child in Trust: The Report of the Panel of Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Jasmine Beckford. London: London Borough of Brent.Google Scholar
  8. Blumer, H. (1969/1986). Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. Brewer, J. (1984). Looking Back at Fascism: A Phenomenological Analysis of BUF Membership. The Sociological Review, 32(4), 742–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brewer, J. (2004). Imagining The Sociological Imagination: The Biographical Context of a Sociological Classic. The British Journal of Sociology, 55(3), 317–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brewer, J. (2005). The Public and Private in C. Wright Mills’s Life and Work. Sociology, 39(4), 661–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burawoy, M. (2005). For Public Sociology: 2004 Presidential Address. American Sociological Review, 70(1), 4–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Campaign for Freedom of Information. (2009, June 10). Press Notice, Concern over New Freedom of Information Exemptions. London.Google Scholar
  14. Cladis, M. S. (1995). Durkheim’s Communitarian Defence of Liberalism. In P. Hamilton (Ed.), Emile Durkheim: Critical Assessments. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Duranti, M. (2012). Curbing Labour’s Totalitarian Temptation: European Human Rights Law and British Postwar Politics. Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, 3(3), 361–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elshtain, J. B. (1997). The Displacement of Politics. In Weintraub & Kumar (Eds.).Google Scholar
  17. Farrand QC, J. (2016, July). Misguided Protection of Personal Data. Public Law, 383–392.Google Scholar
  18. Frank, A. (2013). The Wounded Storyteller: Body Illness and Ethics (2nd ed.). Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  19. Fraser, N. (1998). Sex, Lies, and the Public Sphere: Reflections on the Confirmation of Clarence Thomas. In Landes (Ed.) (1998, pp. 314–337).Google Scholar
  20. Freidson, E. (1970a). Profession of Medicine: A Study of the Sociology of Applied Knowledge. New York: Dodd, Mead.Google Scholar
  21. Freidson, E. (1970b). Professional Dominance. Chicago: Atherton.Google Scholar
  22. Freidson, E. (2001). Professionalism: The Third Logic. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  23. Gallie, W. B. (1956). Essentially Contested Concepts. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 56(1956), 167–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gerth, H. H., & Mills, C. W. (Eds.). (1946). From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  25. Goffman, E. (1959/1990). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  26. Hazell, R., & Worthy, B. (2009, September). Impact of FOI on Central Government Constitution Unit End of Award Report to ESRC. RES 062 23 0164.Google Scholar
  27. Information Commissioner. (2009, June 10). House of Commons Ministerial Veto on Disclosure of Cabinet Minutes Concerning Military Action Against Iraq Information Commissioner’s Report to Parliament. The Stationery Office HC622. Wilmslow, Cheshire, UK.Google Scholar
  28. Information Commissioner. (2012) Ministerial Veto on Disclosure of the Department of Health’s Transition Risk Register: Information Commissioner’s Report to Parliament. The Stationery Office. Wilmslow, Cheshire, UK.Google Scholar
  29. Landes, J. B. (Ed.). (1998). Feminism, the Public and the Private. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Marx, K. (1843). Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Accessed online:
  31. Mills, C. W. (1959/2000). The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Ministry of Justice. (2009). Exercise of the Executive Override in Respect of the Decision of the Information Commissioner FS50165372 as Upheld by the Decision of the Information Tribunal EA/2008/0024 & EA/2008/0029. Statement of Reasons. Ministry of Justice.Google Scholar
  33. Morgan, G. (1986). Images of Organization. Beverley Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Mouffe, C. (2018). For a Left Populism. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  35. Munroe, E. (2011). The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report a Child-Centred System. London: The Department for Education.Google Scholar
  36. Rosenbaum, M. (2009, June 10). Government Plans FOI Restrictions BBC Open Secrets.
  37. UCL Constitution Unit. (2016). Disruptive or Beneficial? Freedom of Information in the UK.
  38. Vaughan, D. (1996). The Challenger Launch Decision. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law, Criminology & GovernmentUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK

Personalised recommendations