Privacy and Accountability of Public Figures

Privacy and Accountability of Public Figures

Despina A. Tziola (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6248-3.ch012
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Abstract

Privacy uses the theory of natural rights and generally responds to new information and communication technologies. In North America, Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis wrote that privacy is the “right to be let alone” (Warren & Brandeis, 1890) and focuses on protecting individuals. This citation was a response to recent technological developments, such as photography, and sensationalist journalism, also known as yellow journalism. Warren and Brandeis declared that information which was previously hidden and private could now be “shouted from the rooftops.” But whether the right to privacy may be limited in the case of public figures and whether public figures are accountable for their actions is up for debate. This issue is explored in this chapter through court decisions that occupied the public.
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2. Definition Of Right To Privacy

In recent years there have been only few attempts to clearly and precisely define a “right to privacy.” Some experts assert that in fact the right to privacy “should not be defined as a separate legal right” at all. By their reasoning, existing laws relating to privacy in general should be sufficient. Other experts, such as Dean Prosser, have attempted, but failed, to find a “common ground” between the leading kinds of privacy cases in the court system, at least to formulate a definition. It has therefore proposed a working definition for a “right to privacy”:

“The right to privacy is our right to keep a domain around us, which includes all those things that are part of us, such as our body, home, property, thoughts, feelings, secrets and identity. The right to privacy gives us the ability to choose which parts in this domain can be accessed by others, and to control the extent, manner and timing of the use of those parts we choose to disclose”.

Alan Westin believes that new technologies alter the balance between privacy and disclosure, and that privacy rights may limit government surveillance to protect democratic processes. Westin defines privacy as “the claim of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others”. Westin describes four states of privacy: solitude, intimacy, anonymity, reserve. These states must balance participation against norms:

Each individual is continually engaged in a personal adjustment process in which he balances the desire for privacy with the desire for disclosure and communication of himself to others, in light of the environmental conditions and social norms set by the society in which he lives.

Under liberal democratic systems, privacy creates a space separate from political life, and allows personal autonomy, while ensuring democratic freedoms of association and expression.

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