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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 27, Issue 2, Fall 2013

Tony Doyle
Pages 147-160

Posner on Privacy

Richard Posner is a leading contemporary critic of privacy. He is highly skeptical of most appeals to privacy, characterizing them as self-serving attempts to keep discrediting, embarrassing, or inconvenient facts from others. Accordingly, he is opposed to the legal protection of most personal information. Posner calls his own theory of privacy “economic.” He argues that the social “markets” in which people sell themselves as employees, business associates, friends, or mates would be far more efficient if nearly all personal information were available to potential “buyers.” I offer two direct criticisms of this view. I then attempt to show that Posner’s conception of privacy is too narrow in the light of the challenge presented by the so-called new panopticon that digital technology has created. I close with a criticism of Posner’s endorsement of sweeping surveillance of U.S. citizens’ e-communications in the name of fighting terrorism.

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