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The Need for Privacy Torts in an Era of Ubiquitous Disclosure and Surveillance

  • Patrick Hubbard
Chapter
Part of the AMINTAPHIL: The Philosophical Foundations of Law and Justice book series (AMIN, volume 8)

Abstract

The distinction between private vis à vis public is central to human society. Not surprisingly, the application of such a binary framework to the complexity of life presents conceptual challenges concerning the private sphere and the right to privacy. From a legal perspective, these challenges are complicated by the distinction between public law involving the state and private law governing areas like property, contract, and tort. Partly as a result of these problems, there are fundamental disagreements concerning the nature and value of privacy. These disagreements complicate the development and application of a “right to privacy” in the context of rapidly evolving digital technology.

This paper addresses these problems in six parts. Section 1 addresses issues concerning the nature and value of privacy and argues: (1) human behavioral patterns indicate that maintaining the privacy of certain types of information is important, (2) the protection of such private information is an essential component of the liberal concept of autonomous personhood, and (3) balancing conflicts between privacy and other values should be done within a fair, reliable process that is able to address the contextual complexity involved. Section 2 discusses the impact of digital technology for surveillance and disclosure of private information. Section 3 addresses legal protections of privacy and argues that, because of the threat to autonomy from improper use of private social actions like shunning, censure, and ridicule, a robust scheme of privacy torts is necessary to provide adequate protection of a private sphere. Section 4 discusses the role of tort law in protecting privacy and develops a conceptual framework for the application of doctrine. Section 5 addresses several doctrinal issues raised by the new digital technologies. Section 6 concludes by arguing that courts have an important responsibility in the shaping of norms about privacy in the context of ubiquitous surveillance and disclosure.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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