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Unpopular PrivacyWhat Must We Hide?$
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Anita Allen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195141375

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195141375.001.0001

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(p.195) Afterword
Unpopular Privacy

Anita L. Allen

Oxford University Press

This book argues that we have things we should hide. The book of Matthew from the Christian Bible, exhorts us to hide our goodness‐‐hide our charity, our prayerfulness and our piety. But why? Where is the shame in virtue? If we are going to do what goodness or virtue demands, why not reap the reputational benefits of letting others know? There can be virtue in modesty, seclusion and confidentiality. There can be safety in limiting access to one’s personal information and electronic communications. We should live some of our lives in private, some in public; and that there is often a role for government in requiring us to live this way. Privacy is too important to be left entirely to chance and fleeting taste. We need laws that require government to leave us alone. We need laws that require government help us make sure that others leave us alone. And we also need government to help us preserve forms of privacy that are important to our lives but to which we may be unwisely indifferent. We may be unwisely indifferent because we are young, or because we are busy, or because, we are unfamiliar with the risks of data collection, sharing and storage that come with the technology we enjoy without understanding. The recoil at the spectre of paternalism can be nearly instinctive for political liberals. But the modest paternalism defended here is consistent with, and indeed required by a robust, liberalism appreciative of the respects in which unchecked loses of privacy can render one nearly a slave to unforgiving masters.

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