Privacy, Data Protection, and the Unprecedented Challenges of Ambient Inteligence

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Abstract

This paper identifies the unprecedented threats that AmI visions carry from the points of view of "privacy" and "data protection". Privacy and data protection are identified as complementary legal instruments aimed at protecting respectively the individual's possibility to construct his own identity and personality without undergoing unreasonable constrains, and the individual's ability to control some aspects of his identity that he projects on the world on the other hand. The "performativity" and the distribution of agency that characterize AmI systems are exposed as transversal concerns that threaten the fundamental value grounding both privacy and data protection laws: respect for individual autonomy. The relevance, applicability and adequacy of the European privacy and data protection legal frameworks to deal with those unprecedented challenges is then assessed. That assessment required to re-think about the scope and the normative grounds of what is meant by the "right to privacy". Privacy, it is argued, is an instrument for fostering the specific yet changing autonomic capabilities of individuals that are, in a given society at a given time, necessary for sustaining a vivid democracy. What those needed capabilities are is obviously contingent both on the characteristics of the constituency considered, and on the state of the technological, economic and social forces that must be weighed against each-other through the operation of legislative balancing. Capacity for both reflexive autonomy allowing to resist social pressures to conform with dominant drifts, and for deliberative abilities allowing participation in deliberative processes are arguably among the skills that a vivid democracy needs citizens to have in the circumstances of our times. The value of privacy today, it will be argued, resides in the support it provides for individuals to develop those aptitudes. Acknowledging both the "intermediate" value of privacy, and its "social-structural" v
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-51
Number of pages51
JournalStudies in Ethics, Law and Technology
Volume2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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