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Privacy, Interests, and Inalienable Rights

  • Adam D. Moore EMAIL logo


Some rights are so important for human autonomy and well-being that many scholars insist they should not be waived, traded, or abandoned. Privacy is a recent addition to this list. At the other end of the spectrum is the belief that privacy is a mere unimportant interest or preference. This paper defends a middle path between viewing privacy as an inalienable, non-waivable, non-transferrable right and the view of privacy as a mere subjective interest. First, an account of privacy is offered that clarifies the concept and demonstrates how privacy is directly related to human health and well-being. Second, along with considering and rejecting several accounts for why privacy might be considered an inalienable right, an argument is offered for why it is morally permissible to waive, transfer, abandon, or alienate privacy.


A version of this paper was presented at the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition, University of Pennsylvania conference on ‘Taking Responsibility for One’s Own Data Privacy and Security’, 24th April, 2015. The author would like to thank Anita Allen, Christopher S. Yoo, and the other conference participants for comments and suggestions. The author would also like to thank Bryce Newell, Mike Katell, Gerdo Kuiper, the anonymous referees and the editors of this journal for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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Published Online: 2018-11-08
Published in Print: 2018-11-27

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