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Engaging Privacy and Information Technology in a Digital Age
recipients, and other individuals who might be affected without their active involvement—and the relationships among them.
What are the stated and unstated motivations, goals, or purposes of the actors? Why do the recipients of the information want it? How might the information be repurposed—used for a purpose other than that for which it was originally collected—in the future?
How are decisions made when there are competing interests regarding personal information, for example, public health needs versus individual privacy or national security versus civil rights interests?
What are the informational norms in question? As noted in Chapter 2, informational norms specify how different kinds of information about various actors in the given context can flow. These norms can be illuminated in many instances through the technique of applying anchoring vignettes as described in Chapter 2. Relevant issues concerning these norms might include:
The extent to which information is provided voluntarily (e.g., is the providing of information required by law, is the information acquired covertly or deceptively);
The extent to which information can be passed along to third parties and the circumstances of such passing (e.g., is it part of a financial transaction);
The extent to which reciprocity exists (is the subject entitled to receive information or other benefits from the recipient);
The extent to which the gathering of information is apparent and obvious to those to whom the information pertains;
Limitations on the use of the information that are implied or explicitly noted;
Whether or not the act of subsequently providing information is known to the subject; and
The extent to which collected information can/might be used for or against others (e.g., relatives, other members of a class).
One important corollary of Finding 1 is that policy debates are likely to be sterile and disconnected if they are couched simply in abstract terms. It should thus be expected that policy debates involving privacy will be couched in the language of the specific context involved—and such context-dependent formulations are desirable. The reason is that even if the issues themselves seem to carry over from one context to another, the weighting of each issue and hence the relationships of issues to each other are likely to depend on the specific context.
A second corollary is that because privacy has meaning only in context, the incidence of privacy problems (e.g., violations of privacy) is poorly defined outside specific contexts, and overall quantitative measures of