Contemporary privacy discussions too often assume that more privacy is necessarily better and limit the debate to a bipolar continuum pitting businesses against consumers. Kent Walker maintains that this view is too limited. In constructing new and better privacy protections, we risk neglecting the implicit costs of privacy and the individual and collective benefits of information exchange.
The author examines how sharing of personal information provides individual benefits (lower costs, greater access, and more convenience), collective benefits (benefits to both individuals and the community achievable only through collective rules favoring information exchange), and social benefits (security, accountability, and trust). He then examines the difficulties of privacy regulation, using as case studies the “fair information practices” advocated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union’s Privacy Directive.