Transformations of Privacy – Project Sketch

Structural transformation of privacy Privacy is under threat: this is a prevailing concern in privacy debates. At the heart of these debates is the protection of personal data and communication, which are particularly vulnerable to exposure via technological developments. Though privacy protection is the object of political, legal and constitutional regulation in ever more states, a theoretical foundation for political action and legal decisions is lacking. Whilst the boundaries and value of privacy are historically and culturally determined, they are affected by developments in information and communication technology: this calls for an examination of the changes in the meaning of privacy in the digital age. Technological developments and the increasing digitization of social life constitute the impulse to investigate the structural transformation of privacy. What needs to be examined is the distinction between private and public spheres and whether individuals are able to determine their respective boundaries. Information societies seem to be committed to two conflicting claims: they demand ever more transparency and the free flow of information, but are also concerned about uncontrolled dissemination of personal information and demand the protection of its privacy.

This project brings together political scientists, legal, media and information technology scholars to reflect on the meaning, value and the shifting boundaries of privacy. Privacy discourses in these four disciplines have hitherto proceeded separately, but only by combining their conceptual resources can advances be made in privacy protection. There are a number of parallel research themes across the four disciplines that enable us to formulate research directions, and, ultimately, policy recommendations. Privacy under threat is the first theme that emerges in all four privacy discourses. The increasing interdependence between privacy issues in law, politics, the media and the internet indicates a second research direction. And the question about the role of privacy for individuals in democratic societies that arises in all four disciplines sets the third research direction.

Principal Investigators:

Prof. Dr. Sandra Seubert (Political Science/ Goethe University Frankfurt), Speaker

Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Grimm (Information Science / University of Koblenz-Landau)

Prof. Dr. Prof. Dr. Christoph Gusy (Legal Science / Bielefeld University)

Prof. Dr. Sabine Trepte (Communication Science/ University of Hohenheim)