Whythe use of contextual integrity framework is the solution to theissue of online privacy.
Theincrease in the internet connectivity has reduced the geographicaldistance between people because it facilitates the exchange ofinformation between people without the need for physical movement.However, the right to privacy when transacting online is one of thecontroversial issues in the field of technology. Many people feelthat the use of internet subject their right to privacy to seriousthreats because they have no control over the personal data submittedto websites. Mekovec (1884) defined the term online privacy as theability of the internet users to control the process used to collecttheir private information and the future usage of the informationthat has been collected or generated from their online activities.Although website owners are required to post privacy statements ontheir websites, it is evident that consumers of those websites haveno control over the use of their private information that iscollected from those websites (Papacharissi 261). This suggests adeficiency in the existing policies and technological measures put inplace to deal with the issue of online privacy. Policymakersshould integrate the norms of contextual flow of information to theinternet activities instead of over-relying on technological basedapproaches in protecting online privacy.
Theuse of the internet to facilitate both commercial and non-commercialtransactions has resulted in transmission of large amounts ofinformation and data. Although this is widely perceived to be apositive technological progress, online transactions should be viewedfrom two sides. On one hand, the internet provides an opportunity forpeople work, share ideas, and network online. On the other hand, theinternet increases the vulnerability of its users and hinders themfrom equal participation in online environments (Mekovec, 1884).Internet users can be grouped into three major categories (includingprivacy guardians, convenience seekers, and information sellers)depending on the significance they attach to their right to privacy.The efforts to improve the privacy level for the internet usersshould address the interests of the internet users and theenterprise. The internet users are concerned about three things,namely convenience, control and privacy while the enterprise isconcerned about control and commerce (Cranstone 1). This means thatan effective approach for the protection of online privacy shouldsatisfy the interest of both parties (internet users and theenterprise) for it to bring a viable solution to the technologyindustry. Over the years, the stakeholders in the technology sectorhave focused on the use of notice-and-consent model to protect theprivacy of the internet users, but this approach has been ineffective(Nissenbaum 43). The contextual integrity approach is the mostappropriate alternative for enhancing online privacy of the internetusers.
Contextualintegrity is a framework that departs from the conventional modelsthat are commonly used to protect online privacy. This model is basedon the notion that privacy is not a matter of secrecy or control, butan issue of appropriateness (Ngan 1). The underlying premise for thismodel is that sharing information valuable, but its benefits dependon the context in which information is shared. There are two basicprinciples used to advance the contextual privacy model. First, themodel holds that people engage in activities that occur in aplurality of realms (Grodzinsky 39). Secondly, the realms in whichthese activities take place are governed by sets of norms. These havethe capacity to limit and shape human behavior, roles as well asexpectations by controlling the flow of private information in aspecific context. In addition, the model is governed by two types ofnorms, including the norms of appropriateness and norms ofdistribution. Norms of distribution are used to determine whether agiven set of personal information is appropriate to divulge in agiven context. Norms of distribution restrict or regulate the flow ofinformation across and within contexts (Nissenbaum 1). Breachingeither of these sets of norms leads to the violation of privacy.
Applicationof different types of norms as an alternative to enhance onlineprivacy
Normsof appropriateness forms the suitable basis of determining the typeof information that should be disclosed to the public and what shouldonly be retained by an individual. This concept is based on thenotion that the nature of information determines whether thedivulgence of such information allowable, demanded, or expected(Zimmer 1). The nature of information means that a given piece ofinformation can be appropriately disseminated in a given context, butinappropriate in another context. For example, posting the diaryinformation in a non-password-protected blog subjects the informationto accessibility by people that one interacts with and those whoshould not access and personal diary. In this case, posting thediary’s information to open blog is inappropriate, but posting itin a password-protected blog would be more appropriate. This meansthat it would be appropriate to share the diary information withpeople that one socializes with, but inappropriate to share the sameinformation with the public in an unprotected blog. The norms ofappropriateness increase the policymakers understanding of the issueof online privacy in two ways. First, there is a need to comprehendthe responsibility that the owner of a given piece of information hasto those who are intended to receive that information (Zimmer 1).Secondly, the policymakers should assess expectations of privacy ofthe recipients or people who have access to the information. Lack ofconsent between the parties involved mean that the norms ofappropriateness have been violated.
Thenorms of distribution restrict the flow of information from one partyto another depending on the context. Although the norms ofappropriateness allow individuals to share information with theirfriends, norms of distribution restrict friends from distributingsuch personal information with third parties (Zimmer 1). Violation ofnorms of distribution occurs when consent is not given before someprivate information is divulged to third parties in a given context.This set of norms is appropriate in regulating the distribution ofprivate information in the social media. Technological advancementand easy access of the internet connectivity have allowed people postand share information with others using personal accounts that are,in most cases accessible to third parties. Posting and sharingnon-newsworthy, embarrassing facts, and publishing privateinformation can easily lead to violation of the norms of distribution(Grodzinsky 40). Similarly, norms of distribution restrict opendivulgence or the right to obtain of personal information (such asphone records) in online health care facilities unless somerequirements are met, but the law enforcement agencies have the legalburden to collect and distribute such information as deemedappropriate. This means that the distribution of private informationusing online platforms should be regulated on the basis of contextand not the concept of notice and choice. Informing people about theuse or distributed of their personal information in the two contexts(health care setting and low enforcement) does not lead to similarimpacts, implying that the consideration of the context is necessary.
Contextualframework as a preferred alternative for protection of online privacy
Onlinelife is heterogeneous and thickly integrated into social life.Transactions, relationships, and relations retain conformity with thefundamental principles of social life and human practice, in spite oftheir distinctive qualities (Nissenbaum 43). The contextual integrityframework conceives these spheres as being constituted by behavioralnorms, which include those that govern the flow of information. Inthis regard, it would not be expected that social norms should vanishwith changes in the medium of the flow of information in favor of theonline platform. This implies that the policy makers should takeactions that are within the social sphere and entrenched in socialnorms. The need to explore the capacity to enhance individuals’capacity to protect their online information using the contextualframework is based on the fact that stacking social and economicincentives against the constraints of the flow of information havenot yielded success.
Thecontextual framework can help individuals in protecting their onlineprivacy. Searching for contours for social structures and activitiesthat are familiar can enhance privacy of online transactions. This isbased on the fact that the internet consists of different activities,both commercial and noncommercial, that is connected to off-linesocial live (Nissenbaum 1). In this regard, the contextual modelsupports the notion that the time spent online is an amalgam worklife, home life, intimate, and social engagements. This leads to theintegration of relevant norms governing human engagement in onlinetransactions. In addition, this diversity of transactions impliesthat context, instead of political economy, is the key determinant ofconstraints of the flow of private information. The primary objectiveof requiring individuals to locate online social contexts that arefamiliar is to divulge relevant measures of excellence. The contextspecific values, purposes, and ends are used as standards againstwhich sharing of information is evaluated instead of merely informingthe people how their data will be used.
Benefitsof using the contextual integrity model and potentialcounterarguments
Preventionof information based-harm
Contextualframework restricts the flow of personal information and opposes thecommon notion of ‘nothing to hide’, which is mainly applied bythe government agencies. This is based on the notion that theunrestricted flow of information or information in the wrong hands isharmful (Nissenbaum 147). Norms of distribution require individualsor agencies holding personal information to consider the rightcontext in which such information should be disseminated. Opponentsof the contextual model argue that restricted transmission ofinformation reduces efficiency by delaying the flow of information,especially in the departments of motor vehicle and social security.However, unrestricted access of information in these departments inthe past have been associated with several homicides, such as RebeccaSchaeffer, where the murder obtained her home address from the motorvehicle records (Nissenbaum 1). Protection of records held by thesedepartments, including the encryption of their websites can reducethe use of their records to achieve the wrong purpose, thus avoidinginformation-based harms.
Preservationof human relationships
Informationif the key factor that determines the strength of the relationshipthat people with others. The capacity to control people who haveaccess to one’s personal information and personal information ofpeople that one associates with serves as the necessary condition forthe development of trust, intimacy, and friendship. The distinctiverelationship in which individuals share information necessitates theapplication of norms and contextual restrictions in the disseminationof information. For example, individuals share information with theirbosses, spouses, colleagues, therapists, and teachers use distinctivepatterns when sharing information (Nissenbaum 149). The capacity ofan individual to assess the nature of the information and the contextin which they share it leads to the development of healthyrelationships. Opponents of the contextual model argue that itrestrictive sharing of information promotes information asymmetry.However, the benefits associated with passing on information only tothe relevant persons overshadow the need to provide full informationto everyone. For example, restricted access to patient informationincreases their trust with health care providers. This encouragesfurther application of medical health care records because patientsare assured that their information will be accessed by the relevantpeople and in the appropriate context.
Restrictedaccess to personal information is one of the viable means of givingpeople freedom and autonomy. According to Nissenbaum (148) a wiserestriction of the public access to personal information increasesthe autonomy of individuals whose information has been protected. Theuse of ineffective strategies and leaving the issue of online privacyto negotiations based on notice-and-consent undermines the freedom ofthe people to determine the time and the context in which they wishto pass on their personal information. Freedom and autonomy providesavenues for people to experiment decide, and act without fearingretribution. This principle seems to overlap the conventionalopinions that support free sharing of information. However, theprinciple of self determination under the contextual frameworkpermits the free flow of information in specific context andrestrictive dissemination of the information outside the context thecontext in which it was shared. For example, patients can freelyshare personal information with health care providers and makesignificant decisions about their health, but this information shouldnot be shared outside the context of health.
Thefailure of the existing approaches of enhancing online privacyindicates that there is a need to integrate the norms of thecontextual flow of information to the online activities. Regulatorsof online transactions should start focusing on core democraticvalues (including privacy and freedom) and construct norms that areconsistent with these principles. The model of contextual integrityis distinct from universal prescriptions of online privacy in publicbecause it is based on the normative bounds of that are determined byparticular contexts. The model of contextual integrity supports thenotion that information sharing is valuable, but it should be done inthe appropriate fashion. The extension of information norms in theoff-life activities that are connected to the internet sustains thegeneral social, moral, economic, and political values in spite of therapid changes in technology. In addition, contextual integrityaddress internal ends, values, and purposes that are specific to agiven context. Therefore, the framework of contextual integrityovercomes the challenges that have reduced the capacity of existingapproaches to protect the right to online privacy.
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