Should we even be thinking about privacy in the current age? In this book, I argue that we should, for all the ongoing and anticipated socio-technological challenges. Nevertheless, we need to acknowledge the scale of the challenges. The public internet with its architecture of open communication, underpinned and supported by digital technologies, certainly presents a special challenge to any idea that privacy can be maintained in the face of such a powerful force for transparency. And the implications of the digital context go well beyond the ‘network of networks’.1 Digital technologies shape devices and processes which rely on continuing accessibility to personal information, including of the most intimate kind, to carry out their functions. Their capacities for collection, storage, search, analysis, combination and dissemination of data of millions of people (or indeed just one or a few targeted persons or groups) give enormous power to those in a position to exercise control over the technologies vis-à-vis subjects. In short, we live in a ‘global information society’, where ‘information technology governs virtually every aspect of our lives’, as Justice Dr D Y Chandrachud observed in Puttaswamy v Union of India in 2017.2 In these settings, it is not surprising to see the possibility of privacy becoming the subject of doubt, even while looking for ways to support it.
The doubt was there from the beginning. When John Perry Barlow proclaimed in the early 1990s that information ‘wants to be free’,3 he was not just announcing the futility...
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