Privacy in the new public sphere, its value and its threats will draw together philosophers, legal scholars and practitioners to facilitate an interdisciplinary dialogue focused on the value of privacy in contemporary society, and the threats it faces. Organised by the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study, it takes place at Senate House, 12–13 September, 12–6pm.

The two-day conference will highlight how an increasingly digital world presents challenges to the protection of privacy and the new threats that are emerging. In cyberspace, the legal responsibility to protect privacy from such threats straddles public and private institutions. The design of protection makes assumptions about how ‘privacy’ is valued and how this warrants mechanisms that protect it from interference. The conference will investigate these assumptions.

It will also explore the impact of technology and cultural transformation on established philosophical work. These range from feminist and Marxist scepticism about how the public/private distinction hide injustices deemed as ‘private’ or ‘domestic’, to liberal defences of the value of both a sphere for intimacy and a separate Habermasian or Rawlsian ‘public sphere’ in which democratic reasoners confront each other as equals.

An important second aim is to enable this exploration – of the relation between the philosophy of privacy and the emergence of the new public sphere – to be informed by a proper appreciation of legal work on the subject. There is plenty of legal scholarship on the right to privacy such as that of Warren and Brandeis and Posner. Still, with the Snowden scandal and the Panama papers, questions as to the boundaries of the legal right are being asked.

However, examining the implications and the relationship between this right and its moral or political value has been afforded less attention. Consequently, the conference’s third aim is to enable the legal work to be informed by a philosophical understanding of its value in the new public sphere.

When: 12–13 September, 12–6pm
Who: Institute of Philosophy
Where: Room 349, third floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

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