Bryce Clayton Newell
European Data Protection Law Review 4(1): 12-16
Publication year: 2018

Privacy and domination have something of a difficult history. On one hand, on some accounts, privacy can act as a shield against domination and arbitrary interference by others, including the state, in individual lives. On the other hand, privacy can also be seen to promote domination in some contexts by shielding more private forms of discrimination and abuse from public scrutiny. Indeed, a feminist critique of privacy emphasizing ‘problems of domination’ would suggest ‘that a life of liberty properly includes both privacy and freedom from privacy’. To some extent, the conflict between these arguments may be seen as a function of differing perspectives, life experiences, or political philosophies, but they may also be a consequence of the fact that defining privacy adequately, especially across disciplines and contexts, has proven to be such a difficult task. Likewise, the overlap between privacy (as a concept and as a legal right) and data protection rights is not perfect, as each encompasses important elements that extend beyond the other. In the end, I propose that privacy, properly conceptualized, can indeed function as ‘a particularly useful instrumental means of supporting the goal of maintaining individual liberty from (…) domination’ while also accounting for the potentially discriminatory and subjugating effects targeted by feminist concerns. Specifically, I argue that privacy is valuable, at least in large part, because it is instrumental to achieving liberty (defined as the absence of the possibility of domination). That is, privacy effectuates freedom in a variety of contexts, and it does so by resisting domination.