Ethics, law and privacy: Disentangling law from ethics in privacy discourse

TitleEthics, law and privacy: Disentangling law from ethics in privacy discourse
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsG. Fuster, G, Gutwirth, S
Conference NameEthics in Science, Technology and Engineering, 2014 IEEE International Symposium on
Date Published23-24 May 2014
Publication Languageeng
Keywordscontemporary , Data , ethical , ethical-legal , ethics , Europe , EUROPEAN , Law , personal , Privacy , security
AbstractNumerous science, technology and engineering developments are perceived as raising privacy concerns. As such, privacy repeatedly finds itself addressed through the mixed lens of an `ethical-legal' (if not `ethical-legal-social') perspective. The aim of this contribution is to dispute the validity of this indistinctive approach, to stress its shortcomings, and to investigate the paths that help to disentwine ethics and law in accordance with their respective singularities and the distance between them. The paper's basic premise is that it is not possible to address the articulation between law and ethics from a neutral, un-aligned, un-attached perspective, and that, regardless of the perspective adopted to examine them, and irrespective of their many intersections, ethics and law are to remain uncoupled. The contribution illustrates how contemporary discourse on privacy can be affected by the merging of the ethical and the legal with examples taken from support of security research in the European Union (EU). Examining the limits of this viewpoint, it puts forward that legal and ethical perspectives of privacy will always remain separated by a gap, and that it is by embracing such gap, instead of attempting to erase it, that the study of privacy should be apprehended. Continuously seeking and questioning the boundaries between law and ethics is, it is suggested, perhaps the most ethical approach to enter the subject.