Privacy, Knowledge, and Knowableness
By: David Matheson
Despite their differences, the three most prominent accounts of (informational) privacy on the contemporary scene -- the Control Theory, the Limited Access Theory, and the Narrow Ignorance Theory -- all hold that an individual's privacy is at least partly a function of a kind of inability of others to know personal facts about her. This common commitment, I argue, renders the accounts vulnerable to compelling counterexamples. I go on to articulate a new account of privacy -- the Broad Ignorance Theory -- that avoids the commitment by rendering an individual's privacy exclusively a function of others not knowing personal facts about her. The remainder of the paper then answers four objections to the Broad Ignorance Theory: that it paradoxically renders private what is in the public domain, that it fails to explain the oddity of attributions of privacy to individuals unable to control whether others know various personal facts about them, that it conflates privacy and secrecy, and that it conflicts with intuitions about privacy losses stemming from false or unjustified beliefs about an individual.
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