International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)


Research Project for a Cartography and Analysis of the Privacy-Arena

Project Board

Joint Project

Caused by a broad societal awareness of problems, there are currently several political conflicts, debating the ethical and legal status of privacy. These debates take place especially due to the dissemination of information technology. In the context of this technology, privacy can be defined with regard to the control one has over the access of third parties to personal data and information. But the crucial question is how effective this control can be, considering for example the violation of data protection laws committed by Google, Facebook, and others. The more personal information becomes an electronically exchangeable, economically exploitable commodity, the more established constraints concerning the dissemination and transfer of information are dissolved. Especially personal data are of great value to companies, since the possession of these data allows targeted incentives, for example via personalized online advertising. The interplay of economic, police, intelligence, state as well as personal interests in personal data together with the possibilities of information technology creates a particular dynamic. On the one hand, this dynamic advances the dissolution of an established understanding of privacy. On the other hand, it creates new concepts of privacy and a variety of practices of demarcation between private and public.

Aims of the Project

The research focuses on the cartography and analysis of the “Privacy Arena.” This involves empirically reconstructing the normative significance of privacy from areas of conflict and discourses which take place in the arena. The “Privacy Arena” represents the controversies on an order of the digital society “pars pro toto”. One focus is on the topics of big data, surveillance and counter-surveillance. The research project aims at a normative analysis of the conflict areas – which encompass the sphere of privacy, its interlocking with systems of information technology, and the political interests to regulate them. The ongoing use of information technology in all areas of society suggests a change in the traditional normative orders of the private and an increasing dissolution of boundaries between the private and the public sphere. Accordingly, one goal of the project consists in determining the theoretical status of privacy under current technological and social conditions. It will, therefore, be essential to examine how democratically organized governance of this change is possible and desirable. In association with project partners from the University of Kassel's sociology and law departments, ethical, day-to-day, and legal grey areas shall be exposed. These grey areas stem from realigned norms constituting privacy. In addition, the results of the project shall be presented in a comprehensible and visually depicted way to all interested citizens.


Research Associates

Project Partners