Articles  |  ,   |  June 15, 2001

The moral value of informational privacy in cyberspace

Article by Diane P. Michelfelder.
Published in Ethics and Information Technology.


Solutions to the problem of protecting informational privacy in cyberspace tend to fall into one of three categories: technological solutions, self-regulatory solutions, and legislative solutions. In this paper, I suggest that the legal protection of the right to online privacy within the US should be strengthened. Traditionally, in identifying where support can be found in the US Constitution for a right to informational privacy, the point of focus has been on the Fourth Amendment; protection in this context finds its moral basis in personal liberty, personal dignity, self-esteem, and other values. On the other hand, the constitutional right to privacy first established by Griswold v. Connecticut finds its moral basis largely in a single value, the value of autonomy of decision-making. I propose that an expanded constitutional right to informational privacy, responsive to the escalating threats posed to online privacy by developments in informational technology, would be more likely to find a solid moral basis in the value of autonomy associated with the constitutional right to privacy found in Griswold than in the variety of values forming the moral basis for the right to privacy backed by the Fourth Amendment.