An Ethical Duty to Protect One’s Own Information Privacy?

In the Alabama Law Review, Anita Allen explores if individuals have a moral or ethical obligation to protect their own information privacy. Safeguarding others’ privacy is widely understood to be a responsibility of government, business, and individuals. But is anyone ethically required — not just prudentially advised — to protect his or her own privacy? If so, how might a requirement to protect one’s own privacy influence everyday choices, public policy, or the law?

Allen tests the idea of an ethical mandate to protect one’s own privacy, while identifying the practical and philosophical problems that bear adversely on the case. She considers the “conceptual” and “libertarian” objections to the view that each individual has a moral obligation to safeguard his or her own privacy. She asserts that, even if privacy is a duty of self-care and self-respect, government and industry have responsibilities and are viewed as partners with individuals in their quest for ethical goodness.