Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 41–49 | Cite as

Privacy, speech, and values: what we have no business knowing

  • Adam D. Moore
Original Paper


In the United States the ascendancy of speech protection is due to an expansive and unjustified view of the value or primacy of free expression and access to information. This is perhaps understandable, given that privacy has been understood as a mere interest, whereas speech rights have been seen as more fundamental. I have argued elsewhere that the “mere interest” view of privacy is false. Privacy, properly defined, is a necessary condition for human well-being or flourishing. The opening section of this article will provide an overview of this theory. Next, after a few remarks on speech absolutism, privacy absolutism, and balancing theories, I will sketch several of the dominant argument strands that have been offered in support of presumptively weighty speech rights. While these arguments, taken together, establish that free speech is important, they do not support the view that speech should nearly always trump privacy. In final section I will present and defend a way to balance free speech and privacy claims.


Privacy Freedom of speech Freedom of expression Privacy rights Value of privacy Definition of privacy Speech absolutism Speech balancing Privacy absolutists Value of speech 


  1. Alderman, E., & Kennedy, C. (1995). Right to privacy. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, L. (1984). The impossibility of a free speech principle. Northwestern University Law Review, 78, 1319–1357.Google Scholar
  3. Allen, A. (2003). Why privacy isn’t everything: Feminist reflections on personal accountability. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  4. Allen, A. (2011). Unpopular privacy: What must we hide?. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Allen, A. (2015). The duty to protect your own privacy. In A. D. Moore (Ed.), Privacy, security, and accountability. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield International.Google Scholar
  6. Barns v. Glen Theater, Inc., 501 U.S. 560 (1991).Google Scholar
  7. Bickel, A. (1975). The morality of consent. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Black, H. L. (1960). The bill of rights. New York University Law Review, 35, 866.Google Scholar
  9. Blasi, V. (1977). The checking value in first amendment theory. American Bar Foundation Research Journal, 521–649.Google Scholar
  10. Brandeis, L. (1914). Other people’s money, and how the bankers use it. New York: F.A. Stokes.Google Scholar
  11. Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd (2004) 2 AC 457.Google Scholar
  12. DeCew, J. W. (1997). In pursuit of privacy: Law, ethics, and the rise of technology. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gavison, R. (1983). Information control: Availability and control. In S. Benn & G. Gaus (Eds.), Public and private in social life (pp. 113–134). New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  14. Goldberg, V. (1991). The power of photography: How photographs changed our lives. New York: Abbeville Press.Google Scholar
  15. Greenawalt, K. (2005). Rationales for freedom of speech. In A. Moore (Ed.), Information ethics: Privacy, property, and power. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gross, H. (1971). Privacy and autonomy. In J. R. Pennock & J. W. Chapman (Eds.), Privacy (pp. 169–181). New York: Atherton Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hughes, K., & Richards, N. (2016). The Atlantic divide on privacy and free speech. In A. T. Kenyon (Ed.), Comparative defamation and privacy law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kant, I. (1974). On the old saw: That may be right in theory but it won’t work in practice (E. B. Ashton, Trans.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press (first published in 1793).Google Scholar
  19. Kozinski, A., & Banner, S. (1990). Who’s afraid of commercial speech. Virginia Law Review, 76, 627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McClurg, A. (1994–1995). Bringing privacy law out of the closet: A Tort theory of liability for intrusions in public places. North Carolina Law Review, 73, 989–1088.Google Scholar
  21. Meiklejohn, A. (1961). The first amendment is an absolute. Supreme Court Review, 245–266.Google Scholar
  22. Mill, J. S. (1859). On liberty. London: Longman, Roberts & Green.Google Scholar
  23. Mokrosinska, D. (2015). Privacy, freedom of speech, and the sexual lives of office holders. In A. D. Moore (Ed.), Privacy, security, and accountability. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield International.Google Scholar
  24. Moore, A. D. (2003). Privacy: Its meaning and value. American Philosophical Quarterly., 40, 215–227.Google Scholar
  25. Moore, A. D. (2007). Toward informational privacy rights. San Diego Law Review, 44, 809–845.Google Scholar
  26. Moore, A. D. (2008). Defining privacy. Journal of Social Philosophy, 39, 411–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moore, A. D. (2010). Privacy rights: Moral and legal foundations. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Moore, A. D. (2011). Privacy, security, and government surveillance: Wikileaks and the new accountability. Public Affairs Quarterly, 25, 141–156.Google Scholar
  29. Moore, A. D. (2013). Privacy, speech, and the law. Journal of Information Ethics, 22, 21–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moore, A. D., Newell, B. C., & Metoyer, C. (2015). Privacy in the family. In B. Roessler & D. Mokrosinska (Eds.), The social dimensions of privacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Murdock, G. P. (1955). The universals of culture. In A. Hoebel, J. D. Jennings, & E. R. Smith (Eds.), Readings in world anthropology. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  32. Nissenbaum, H. (2009). Privacy in context: Technology, policy, and the integrity of social life. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Nissenbaum, H., & Brunton, F. (2015). Obfuscation: A user’s guide for privacy and protest. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  34. Nussbaum, M. C. (2000). Woman and human development: The capabilities approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Parent, W. A. (1983). Privacy, morality, and the law. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 12, 269–288.Google Scholar
  36. Parker, R. B. (1974). A definition of privacy. Rutgers Law Review., 27, 275–296.Google Scholar
  37. Phillipson, G. (2016). Press freedom, the public interest and privacy. In A. Kenyon (Ed.), Comparative defamation and privacy law (pp. 136–163). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Rachels, J. (1975). Why privacy is important. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 4, 323–333.Google Scholar
  39. Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Redish, M. (1981). The content distinction in first amendment analysis. Stanford Law Review, 34, 113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Redish, M. (1982). The value of free speech. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 130, 591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roberts, J. M., & Gregor, T. (1971). Privacy: A cultural view. In J. R. Pennock & J. W. Chapman (Eds.), Privacy: Nomos XIII (pp. 199–225). New York: Atherton Press.Google Scholar
  43. Rössler, B. (2005). The value of privacy (R. D. V. Glasgow, Trans.). Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  44. Scanlon, T. (1972). A theory of freedom of expression. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 1, 216.Google Scholar
  45. Schauer, F. (1982). Free speech: A philosophical enquiry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Schwartz, B. (1968). The social psychology of privacy. American Journal of Sociology, 73, 741–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Solove, D., & Richards, N. (2007). Privacy’s other path: Recovering the law of confidentiality. Georgetown Law Journal, 96, 123.Google Scholar
  48. Spencer, H. (1904). Essays: Scientific, political, and speculative (Vol. 3). New York: D. Appleton and Company.Google Scholar
  49. Spiro, H. J. (1971). Privacy in comparative perspective. In J. R. Pennock & J. W. Chapman (Eds.), Privacy: Nomos XIII (pp. 121–148). New York: Atherton Press.Google Scholar
  50. Stattin, H., & Kerr, M. (2000). Parental monitoring: A reinterpretation. Child Development, 71, 1072–1085.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stewart, P. (1974). Or of the press. Hastings Law Journal, 26, 631.Google Scholar
  52. Sunstein, C. (1986). Pornography and the first amendment. Duke Law Journal, 1986, 589–627.Google Scholar
  53. Sunstein, C. (1989). Low value speech revisited). Northwestern University Law Review, 83(3), 555–561.Google Scholar
  54. Volokh, E. (2000). Freedom of speech and information privacy: The troubling implications of a right to stop people from speaking about you. Stanford Law Review, 52, 1049–1124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Warren, S. D., & Brandeis, L. (1890). The right to privacy. The Harvard Law Review, 4, 193–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Westin, A. (1967). Privacy and freedom. New York: Atheneum.Google Scholar
  57. Wright, G. (1985). A rationale from J. S. Mill for the free speech clause. Supreme Court Review, 149, 149–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Information SchoolUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations