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Why Does Privacy Matter? One Scholar's Answer

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Our privacy is now at risk in unprecedented ways, but, sadly, the legal system is lagging behind the pace of innovation. Indeed, the last major privacy law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, was passed in 1986! While an update to the law -- spurred on by the General Petraeus scandal -- is in the works, it only aims to add some more protection to electronic communication like emails. This still does not shield our privacy from other, possibly nefarious, ways that our data can be collected and put to use. Some legislators would much rather not have legal restrictions that could, as Rep. Marsha Blackburn stated in an op-ed, "threaten the lifeblood of the Internet: data." Consider Rep. Blackburn's remarks during an April 2010 Congressional hearing: "[A]nd what happens when you follow the European privacy model and take information out of the information economy? ... Revenues fall, innovation stalls and you lose out to innovators who choose to work elsewhere."

Even though the practices of many companies such as Facebook are legal, there is something disconcerting about them. Privacy should have a deeper purpose than the one ascribed to it by those who treat it as a currency to be traded for innovation, which in many circumstances seems to actually mean corporate interests. To protect our privacy, we need a better understanding of its purpose and why it is valuable.

Read the entire piece at The Atlantic.

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