The philosophy of privacy: why surveillance reduces us to objects

By Michael P. Lynch – Philosophers have traditionally distinguished freedom of choice or action from what is sometimes called autonomy.

To see the difference, think about impulse buying. You may “freely” click on the “buy” button in the heat of the moment – indeed, corporations count on it – without that decision reflecting what really matters to you in the long run. Decisions like that might be “free” but they are not fully autonomous.

Someone who makes a fully autonomous decision, in contrast, is committed to that decision; she owns it. Were she to reflect on the matter, she would endorse those decisions as reflecting her deepest values.

Systematic invasions of privacy are undermining our autonomy in precisely the same way in which the mind-meld case does. The government is not forcing us to make a decision. But it is undermining our autonomy nonetheless. more>


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