Helen Nissenbaum

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Stanford Center for Internet & Society
March 29, 2011

Spurred by revelations in mainstream media of surreptitious monitoring, much of it a result of ascent of behavioral advertising, there has been a resurgence of interest in online privacy among government agencies and the general public. Despite its acknowledged failure, in the United States, notice-and-consent, fortified in one way or another, remains the fallback mechanism for privacy protection. In this talk, I will outline an approach based in the theory of contextual integrity that calls for a different starting place. I argue that notice-and-consent can function only against the backdrop of context-based substantive norms constraining what websites may do; what information they can collect, with whom they can share, and under what conditions. As a first step, however, it is useful to understand the role commerce has played in setting the agenda and how this influence should be contained.

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