Purpose – Although there is much public talk about privacy, it seems that there is no definite answer; rather, ambiguous concepts of what privacy is and what indeed privacy in peril is. The overall aim of this paper is to clarify how privacy is defined in the academic literature, what the different concepts of privacy have in common, what distinguish them from one another, and what advantages and disadvantages such definitions have in order to clarify if there is a gap in the existing literature. Design/methodology/approach – This contribution constructs theoretically founded typologies in order to systemize the existing literature of privacy studies and to analyse examples of privacy (threats). Therefore, it mainly is a theoretical approach combined with illustrative examples. Findings – This paper contains a systematic discussion of the state of the art of privacy studies by establishing a typology of existing privacy definitions and discussing commonalties and differences. In this paper, it is argued that the existing literature is insufficient for studying privacy. Therefore, a critical contribution to privacy studies is needed. Originality/value – A critical contribution to privacy studies avoids pitfalls of the existing literature and strives for the development of theoretical and empirical research methods in order to focus on privacy in the context of domination, asymmetrical power relations, resource control, social struggles, and exploitation.
Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 17, 2011
Keywords: Privacy; Information society; Surveillance; Critical theory; Culture (sociology)