Abstract - The Information Society 14(4)

The Distribution of Privacy Risks: Who Needs Protection?

Charles D. Raab and Colin J. Bennett

It is commonly accepted that the use of personal information in business and government puts individual privacy at risk. However, little is known about these risks - for instance, whether and how they can be measured, and how they vary across social groups and the sectors in which personal data are used. Unless we can gain a purchase on such issues, our knowledge of the societal effects of information technology and systems will remain deficient, and the ability to make and implement better policies for privacy protection, and perhaps for a more equitable distribution of risk and protection, will remain impaired. The article explores this topic, examining conventional paradigms in data protection, including the one-dimensional view of the 'data subject', which inhibit better conceptualisations and practices. It looks at some comparative survey evidence which casts light on the question of the distribution of privacy risks and concerns. It examines theoretical issues in the literature on risk, raising questions about the objectivity and perception of the risk of privacy invasion.

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