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The Doctrine of Privacy in the Age of Big Data

by R Tamara de Silva

 

We all have an unthinking certitude about what privacy means.  We are reasonably sure that we retain this right to privacy when we go about our ordinary activities like buying groceries or using the Internet.

But it is not unreasonable to question what our right to privacy means in the digital world of Big Data.  It bears noting that this cursory discussion will not delve into the more complex issue of what the right of privacy actually is and from where it arises.  Case law typically considers the right to privacy when it comes to striking down laws related to the rubric of human sexuality-the familiar topics of abortion, marriage and contraception.  Aside from First Amendment protections and the right to be secure in your home, what is meant by privacy here for our purposes is the idea of what is left for so many of us to retain as our own.  Or stated alternatively, what we do not want to be shared-even when we seem so compelled to seemingly ‘over share’ so much else.

Privacy is a sphere into which the individual does not want the government, or anyone else for that matter, to reach.  Privacy in any case is practically better discussed in this colloquial and ‘common sense’ way than in the legal sense where one’s politics, ideas of judicial interpretation, and judicial activism do not need to be summoned.

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