Push for privacy irrelevant in tech savvy world, argues Deakin's "big thinker"

6 February 2013

There is no right to privacy, in fact the push for more rights to privacy is irrelevant in the face of social media and technological advances, Deakin University's Head of the Law School, Professor Mirko Bagaric argues in a new book to be launched in Canberra today.

The book "Future Proofing Australia, The Right Answers for Our Future" compiled by Senator Brett Mason and Daniel Wood contains a range of essays from authors including Professor Peter Doherty, General Peter Cosgrove and Cardinal George Pell.

It outlines their thoughts on the big ideas facing Australia in the future and in his introduction to the book , the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott says the book features 'big thinkers on big ideas'.

Professor Bagaric is one of 18 contributors and only four academics to the book which is designed to inform, challenge and lift the level of public debate.

As an expert on legal and moral philosophy and regular media commentator and columnist, this is familiar territory for Professor Bagaric who is no stranger to public or intellectual debate.

"Social reform and addressing moral and legal issues is one of the most complex tasks which face governments," he said.

"In areas such as health and transport change is driven by empirically demonstrated improvements yet on social and moral issues there are no agreed criteria for measuring and evaluating competing claims.

"As a result issues remain divisive and contentious for decades, abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage to cite a few."

Professor Bagaric said one of the emerging issues facing society is the right to privacy.

"The right to privacy has blossomed in recent decades, to the point where it has developed into an enforceable legal right in many countries.

"The existence of a right to privacy has been assumed, but not proven and no one has rigorously analysed whether privacy is desirable, until now."

Professor Bagaric said his essay explored whether a strong right to privacy improved human prosperity as well as the legal protection accorded to privacy.

"I look at the nature of rights and how they should be evaluated and balanced out in the face of competing rights and the common good," he said.

"I suggest that based on that analysis there is no demonstrable need for a strong right to privacy, in fact it would damage society."

Professor Bagaric said privacy was a late 20th Century, early 21st Century invention and reflected a highly individualistic society which feared the technology it had developed.

"The current legal focus and level of discussion concerning the right to privacy is an illustration of the human propensity to lose perspective," he said.

"Modern technology underlines the irrelevance of arguments for the need for more privacy.

"People are more likely to seek attention rather than anonymity."

Professor Bagaric cited Facebook as an example.

"Facebook has more than 800 million users of which more than 50 Per cent log on every day," he said.

"Users select the amount and type of data they upload and commonly it includes photographs, often of a revealing nature, relationship status, work and study activity, likes and dislikes and intimate personal details.

"Nothing it seems is out of bounds in terms of the information people share about themselves."

Professor Bagaric said privacy is a code for secrecy and was normally the refuge of the guilty, paranoid and misguided.

"It results in a less informed, less transparent and less enlightened community," he said.

"The truth about privacy is that the more we know about other people, the clearer it becomes that they are like us, it leads to a reduction in stereotypes and prejudices.

"Less, not more privacy, benefits the community."


Media contact

Mandi O’Garretty
Media and Corporate Communications
03 52272776, 0418 361 890
Email Mandi

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