Privacy, Technology, and Democracy

Michelle Stout


In recent decades, advances within information communication technologies have created both challenges and opportunities to individuals and their governments, resulting in dramatic shifts in contemporary human conditions. This study explores the dimensions of these conditions. The paper is divided into three parts. The first part examines how improved technologies in personal communications are deeply linked with improved technologies of surveillance used by governments and private enterprise. Through this examination, the paper demonstrates how the linkages between the technology of communication and surveillance have created contradictory imperatives—individuals’ wish for and implied right to privacy, governmental need to provide security, and capitalist institutions desire for profit. This contradiction impacts the individual’s ability maintain their privacy while empowers states and corporations to increasingly violate what we had previously considered to be private.  As such, the conceptual lines defining the distinction between privacy and what is public have become blurry at best, nonexistent at worst. Exploring this blurriness leads to a discussion on expanding the definition of privacy and the negative consequences of suffering from cumbersome corporate and governmental organizations that interject into people’s daily lives without being responsible to the public. Finally, the third part of this paper examines the element of security but questions security in the traditional context. Focusing on what appears to be a reverse form of securitization that inhibits the public’s ability to assert its democratic authority and contributes to atmosphere that protects monitoring, tracking, and data collection by powerful public and private bodies at the expense of democracy.


Technology, Privacy, Democracy

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