Politics, Civil Society and Participation: Media and Communications in a Transforming Environment

Title chapter: The normative shift: Three paradoxes of information privacy
Author: Jockum Hildén
Keywords: information privacy, data protection, European Union, socio-legal research, internet policy
Abstract: While a tension between social norms of privacy, technology and law has always been present in debates on privacy law, the emergence of computerized databases in the 1970s shifted the focus of privacy law from publication to control over information flows. In the past decade, data flows have become increasingly globalized and personal communications digitized. This, in combination with advances in computing, allows for the creation of extensive databases that can be efficiently and automatically analyzed. The right to privacy is gradually being eroded by data processing activities that are often unknown to users of media, and communications technology which are rarely compatible with people’s perception of privacy. The legislative attempts to overcome privacy challenges associated with these trends have regrettably resulted in paradoxical outcomes. First, a privacy paradox has evolved, which suggests that people’s perception of their right to privacy is rarely an indication of awareness of the privacy consequences of their actions. Second, information privacy laws have introduced a transparency paradox, where the requirement of detailed privacy notices has resulted in less understanding of how personal data is used. Third, legislators in the EU have created a purpose paradox in their pursuit of facilitating the free movement of data while simultaneously aiming to protect the privacy of citizens.
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