The Ethics of Privacy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter argues that the sophisticated ethics of privacy is a sine qua non for news media, with the common good being the primary principle. For communications, the best definition of privacy is the protection of one's innermost self by determining who or what enters our personal life space. In the digital era of networking and cyberspace, establishing an ethics of privacy is especially urgent. Because intrusion is a wide-ranging public issue using digital technology, the ethical framework ought to be commensurate in scope. A liberal ethics of human dignity for print or broadcast media, even one that appears able to stand on its own, needs to be expanded into an ethics of the common good. Thus, privacy must be understood primarily in terms of the general morality, not in terms of professional standards. The ethics of privacy is not focused on decisions that journalists make but is centered on the victims' need to control information about themselves. A reasonable public determines whether, when, and how information about them is communicated to others. From the common-good perspective, important social concerns regarding privacy are made transparent and inescapable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationJournalism Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationA Philosophical Approach
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199776610
ISBN (Print)9780195370805
StatePublished - May 1 2010


  • Democracy
  • Journalism
  • Journalists
  • Privacy
  • Professional ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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