Location Data, Purpose Binding and Contextual Integrity: What’s the Message?

  • Mireille Hildebrandt
Part of the Law, Governance and Technology Series book series (LGTS, volume 17)


This chapter investigates the issue of the proliferation of location data in the light of the ethical concept of contextual integrity and the legal concept of purpose binding. This involves an investigation of both concepts as side constraints on the free flow of information, entailing a balancing act between the civil liberties of individual citizens and the free flow of information. To tackle the issue the chapter starts from Floridi’s proposition that ‘communication means exchanging messages. So even the most elementary act of communication involves four elements: a sender, a receiver, a message, and a referent of the message’ and his subsequent proposal that informational privacy can be described as ‘the freedom from being the referent of a message’. After discussing the current environment of messaging in terms of Big Data Space and the Onlife World, the chapter develops a more detailed definition for the right to informational location privacy. The road to this more detailed definition allows to highlight the balancing act inherent in both contextual integrity and purpose binding, and shows that the most salient challenge for such balancing acts is not—only—that Big Data Space and the Onlife World turn contexts into moving targets. More importantly, the context of economic markets tends to colonize the framing of other contexts, thus also disrupting the protection offered by purpose binding. To safeguard informational privacy we need to engage in new types of boundary work between the contexts of e.g. health, politics, religion, work on the one hand, and the context of economic markets on the other. This ardent task should enable us to sustain legitimate expectations of what location messages are appropriate as well as lawful in a particular context.


Cybernetics Messages Contextual integrity Purpose binding Ethics Rule of Law Location privacy Inferences Volunteered data Observed data Inferred data 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Computing and Information Sciences (iCIS)Radboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.JurisprudenceErasmus School of Law (ELS)RotterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Law Science Technology & Society studies (LSTS)Vrije UniversiteitBrusselsThe Netherlands

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