Data Protection and Privacy: (In)visibilities and Infrastructures

Volume 36 of the series Law, Governance and Technology Series pp 107-137


Minimum Harm by Design: Reworking Privacy by Design to Mitigate the Risks of Surveillance

  • Elisa OrrùAffiliated withCentre for Security and Society, Albert-Ludwigss-Universität Freiburg Email author 

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Particular applications of Privacy by Design (PbD) have proven to be valuable tools to protect privacy in many technological applications. However, PbD is not as promising when applied to technologies used for surveillance. After specifying how surveillance and privacy are understood in this paper, I will highlight the shortcomings of PbD when applied to surveillance, using a web-scanning system for counter-terrorism purposes as an example. I then suggest reworking PbD into a different approach: the Minimum Harm by Design (MHbD) model. MHbD differs from PbD principally in that it acknowledges that the potential harms of surveillance bear not only upon privacy but also values that define the very constitution of a society and its political character. MHbD aims to identify and systematise the different categories of such harms and links them to current theories on surveillance on the one hand and on possible design measures on the other.


Chilling effect Contextual integrity Data mining Discrimination Minimum harm by design Privacy Privacy by design Social sorting Surveillance