Niko Kolodny, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
University of California, Berkeley
Born in 1972 in New York City, N.Y., USA
Studied Philosophy at Williams College, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford, and Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley
Philosophical Foundations of Privacy for a Digital AgeThe ever-present surveillance of our lives, insofar as our lives are linked to the Internet or the “internet of things,” has left our understanding of the morality of privacy in disarray. My aim in this project is thus to develop a framework for characterizing the morality of privacy that can guide our thinking about the nature and limits of privacy in a world in which relations between individuals are mediated and monitored by digital technologies.
The first step in understanding the morality of privacy is understanding your underlying interests in privacy, interests that might ground your right to privacy. The interests are various. In some cases, the interests are straightforward. My learning something about you, such as that you committed a crime as an adolescent, can affect how I view you and interact with you as a person. In other cases, the interests are more mysterious. What interest of yours is compromised by my spying on you naked, if you never find out about it, and so do not experience feelings of shame or embarrassment?
The second step in understanding the morality of privacy is understanding the objections to privacy – the countervailing interests that I and others have that might prevent your interests in privacy from grounding a right to privacy. These objections are likewise various. For instance, I might have objections to being kept from learning that you are not trustworthy. And I might have objections to more pedestrian burdens that I must bear to avoid learning about you. Even if I have no interest in your conversation, I may have an interest in not having to move away so as to avoid overhearing what you say.
The resulting framework of the morality of privacy is highly pluralistic. There is a diversity of reasons to care about and to oppose privacy. An adequate view of the morality of privacy – and so a view that can guide our thinking about the right to privacy and its limits in the digital age – consists in appreciating and articulating the distinctions, instead of attempting to impose a superficial uniformity on them, as prominent existing accounts of the right to privacy tend to do.
Kolodny, Niko. “Love as Valuing a Relationship.” Philosophical Review 112, no. 2 (2003): 135–189.
—. “Why Be Rational?” Mind 114, no. 455 (2005): 509–563.
—. The Pecking Order: Social Hierarchy as a Philosophical Problem. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2023.