Privacy in the New Public Sphere, its Value and its Threats

Privacy in the New Public Sphere, its Value and its Threats
12 September 2018, 12.00pm - 13 September 2018, 6.00pm
Conference / Symposium
Room 349, Third Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

This conference will draw together philosophers, legal scholars and practitioners to facilitate an interdisciplinary dialogue focused on the value of privacy in contemporary society, and the threats it faces. The protection of privacy presents challenges in an increasingly digital world as new threats to privacy emerge. In cyberspace the legal responsibility to protect privacy from such threats straddles public and private institutions. The design of privacy protection is premised on assumptions about how ‘privacy’ is valued and how this warrants mechanisms that protect it from interference: our conference will investigate these assumptions.

There is strong philosophical work on privacy: from feminist and Marxist scepticism about how the public/private distinction serves to hide injustices deemed as ‘private’ or ‘domestic’, to liberal defenses of the value of both a sphere for intimacy and a separate Habermasian or Rawlsian ‘public sphere’ in which democratic reasoners confront each other as equals.  One aim of this conference is to explore how this established philosophical work is confirmed and destabilised by the technological and cultural transformations of the nature of privacy created by new developments in surveillance technology, in the use of private sector employees to perform public functions (e.g. in privately run prisons or hospitals) and in social media, and by traditional print and broadcast media’s adaptation to these developments – as shown, for example, in the recent electoral and referendum campaigns in the UK and the USA, in the practices that led to the Leveson Inquiry, in the ‘MPs’ expenses scandal’, among many others.

An important second aim is to enable this exploration – of the relation between the philosophy of privacy and the emergence of the new public sphere – to be informed by a proper appreciation of legal work on the subject.  There is much legal scholarship on right to privacy such as that of Warren and Brandeis and Posner. Still, with the Snowden scandal and the Panama papers questions as to the boundaries of the legal right to privacy are being asked. However, examining the implications and the relationship between this right and its moral or political value has been afforded less attention. Consequently, a third aim of our conference is to enable the legal work to be informed by a philosophical understanding of privacy’s value in the new public sphere.


12th Sept

12.00 Registration

12.45 – 14.45 The Value of Privacy and its Protection

Charles Raab: Privacy beyond the individual

Nora Ni Loideain: Augmented Powers require Augmented Accountability: Data-Driven Policing and Oversight

14.45 Coffee break

15.00-17.00 Technology and authority: undermining or supporting privacy?

Paul de Hert: Data protection in law as a medium towards value free discussions

William Webster: Privacy and the Surveillance Camera Revolution


13th Sept

10.00-12.00 Hate Speech And Political Speech In Private

Rae Langton: Hate Speech in Public and Private

Jonathan Heawood: ‘Privatisation’ of formerly-public political speech

12.00 Lunch break

13.15-15.15 Technologies of Privacy in Government and Computing

Annabelle Lever: Privacy and petty tyranny

Emiliano de Cristofaro: Genomic testing and privacy issues

15.15 Coffee break

15.30-17.30 A Public Sphere that Respects Privacy?

Onora O’Neill: Privacy in a Digital World

 Martin Moore: ”Up to 5,000 data points” – Political Privacy in the Age of Big Data


Mo Egan and Rowan Cruft

Closing Remarks and Reception



Institute of Philsophy
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