The Ethics Of Commercial Privacy

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The Ethics of Commercial Privacy
In “The Right of Privacy,” Richard Posner argues that, “the law should in general accord private business information greater protection than it accords personal information. Secrecy is an important method of appropriating social benefits to the entrepreneur who creates them while in private life it is more likely to conceal discreditable facts” (404). However, his argument is flawed, because it dehumanizes individuals, disregarding the value of their privacy in order to place the corporate world above their needs and rights. Posner’s claim rests on his economic analysis, which holds that a business has a greater potential for economic efficiency than an individual if its information is kept private. And it is crucial to this analysis that privacy and prying be regarded as intermediate goods—means to an end rather than ends in themselves. Indeed Posner believes that we use prying and then work to conceal our own information so as to come out ahead. Thus he argues that prying into the private lives of friends is motivated “by rational considerations of self-interest,” for it gives us a more holistic sense of what kinds of people our friends may be (395). Posner believes that idle curiosity does not exist, then, because our reasons for seeking out information always serve some greater end. Even gossip columns, in Posner’s opinion, are not, as Warren and Brandeis assert, “deplorable.” Rather, we use the personal lives of successful people to

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