Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

NSF WATCH Talk- Privacy: Plural, Contextual, Contestable but not Unworkable

March 15th, 2016 / in Announcements, NSF / by Helen Wright

mulliganThe next WATCH talk, called Privacy: Plural, Contextual, Contestable but not Unworkable is Thursday, March 17, 2016 from Noon-1pm EDT.

The presenter is Deirdre K. Mulligan an Associate Professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley, co-Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Policy lead for the NSF-funded TRUST Science and Technology Center. She is also one of the lead organizers for the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) Privacy by Design workshop series. Prior to joining the School of Information in 2008, Mulligan was a Clinical Professor of Law, founding Director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, and Director of Clinical Programs at the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). Her current research agenda focuses on information privacy and security, including exploring users’ conceptions of privacy in the online environment and their relation to existing theories of privacy.


The scholarly literature presents a dizzying array of diverging definitions of privacy. Privacy is equally ambiguous in practice, where it is invoked to protect a wide range of interests based on an equally wide range of justifications. While the frequency and intensity of privacy debates are evidence of its salience to contemporary life, its contestability has intensely troubling practical consequences. Privacy is decreed too fickle and indeterminate to be advanced through legislative, regulatory, and technical means. Ambiguity becomes an excuse for disregarding privacy claims-despite visceral and broad appeal, and vociferous support. In this talk, I argue that privacy is an “essentially-contested concept,” and that its contestability is a source of value and power that ought to be preserved. I then offer a multi-dimensional analytic of privacy that helps unpack privacy’s meaning in specific contexts and contests. Using the analytic to explore privacy claims in high-profile privacy cases reveals the complex array of privacy concepts raised by technical change, and the sort of design and policy choices that can address them. Privacy’s essential contestability is key to its ongoing relevance and utility in political and social life, but successfully leveraging it requires tools that ease privacy work by unpacking it’s meaning in contexts.

The talk will be held in Room 110 at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, VA. No RSVP is necessary, and no visitor badges are required. It will also be webcast; you can register here


NSF WATCH Talk- Privacy: Plural, Contextual, Contestable but not Unworkable

Comments are closed.