The Seven Veils of Privacy

Summary: Privacy is one of the most contested concepts of our time. In his recent book, The Seven Veils of Privacy, Kieron O’Hara sets out a rigorous and comprehensive framework for understanding debates about privacy and our rights to it. Much of the conflict around privacy comes from a failure to recognise divergent perspectives. Some people argue about human rights, some about social conventions, others about individual preferences and still others about information and data processing. As a result, ‘privacy’ has become the focus of competing definitions, leading some to denounce the ‘disarray’ in the field.
But disagreements about the role and value of privacy obscure a large amount of agreement on the topic. Privacy is not a technical term of law, cybersecurity or sociology, but a word in common use that adequately expresses a few simple and related ideas. Once we learn to distinguish the different discourses involving the term, the apparent disarray dissolves, and the parochial nature of our disagreements revealed.

Biography: Kieron O’Hara is a computer scientist and philosopher, interested in the social and political context of technology, particularly the World Wide Web. During an academic career of 30 years, he specialised in studies of trust, privacy and open data. He maintains a passion for communicating complex research issues to the public, and has published over a dozen books and hundreds of peer-reviewed articles on topics ranging from literature to digital society to political philosophy.