Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

What you need to know about CRISPR

Brain Implant Allows Paralyzed Man to Feel Objects With a Prosthetic Limb

Technology hasn’t changed love. Here’s why

Why Non-Natural Moral Realism is Better than Divine Command Theory

IEET Affiliate Scholar Steve Fuller Publishes New Article in The Telegraph on AI

Can we build AI without losing control over it?

ieet books

Philosophical Ethics: Theory and Practice
John G Messerly


rms on 'Can we build AI without losing control over it?' (Oct 24, 2016)

spud100 on 'For the unexpected innovations, look where you'd rather not' (Oct 22, 2016)

spud100 on 'Have you ever inspired the greatest villain in history? I did, apparently' (Oct 22, 2016)

RJP8915 on 'Brexit for Transhumanists: A Parable for Getting What You Wish For' (Oct 21, 2016)

instamatic on 'What democracy’s future shouldn’t be' (Oct 20, 2016)

instamatic on 'Is the internet killing democracy?' (Oct 17, 2016)

RJP8915 on 'The Ethics of a Simulated Universe' (Oct 17, 2016)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Here’s Why The IoT Is Already Bigger Than You Realize
Sep 26, 2016
(6004) Hits
(1) Comments

IEET Fellow Stefan Sorgner to discuss most recent monograph with theologian Prof. Friedrich Graf
Oct 3, 2016
(4130) Hits
(0) Comments

Space Exploration, Alien Life, and the Future of Humanity
Oct 4, 2016
(4027) Hits
(1) Comments

Blockchain Fintech: Programmable Risk and Securities as a Service
Oct 22, 2016
(3750) Hits
(0) Comments

IEET > Rights > Life > Access > Vision > Fellows > Evan Selinger

Print Email permalink (0) Comments (2686) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

Obscurity: A Better Way to Think About Your Data Than ‘Privacy’

Evan Selinger
By Evan Selinger

Posted: Jan 18, 2013

Obscurity is a protective state that can further a number of goals, such as autonomy, self-fulfillment, socialization, and relative freedom from the abuse of power.



Facebook's announcement of its new Graph search tool on Tuesday set off yet another round of rapid-fire analysis about whether Facebook is properly handling its users' privacy. Unfortunately, most of the rapid-fire analysts haven't framed the story properly. Yes, Zuckerberg appears to be respecting our current privacy settings. And, yes, there just might be more stalking ahead. Neither framing device, however, is adequate. If we rely too much on them, we'll miss the core problem: the more accessible our Facebook information becomes, the less obscurity protects our interests.

While many debates over technology and privacy concern obscurity, the term rarely gets used. This is unfortunate, as "privacy" is an over-extended concept. It grabs our attention easily, but is hard to pin down. Sometimes, people talk about privacy when they are worried about confidentiality. Other times they evoke privacy to discuss issues associated with corporate access to personal information. Fortunately, obscurity has a narrower purview.

Obscurity is the idea that when information is hard to obtain or understand, it is, to some degree, safe. Safety, here, doesn't mean inaccessible. Competent and determined data hunters armed with the right tools can always find a way to get it. Less committed folks, however, experience great effort as a deterrent.

Click Here to

Evan Selinger is Associate Professor of Philosophy and MAGIC Center Head of Research Communications, Community & Ethics, both at Rochester Institute of Technology. Evan publishes extensively in the areas of philosophy of technology, privacy, and ethics/policy of science and technology. To enhance public debate about ethics, Evan regularly supplements his peer-reviewed scholarship with outreach articles in places like The AtlanticWiredSlateForbes,The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation.
Print Email permalink (0) Comments (2687) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Artificial Intelligence - Psychology

Previous entry: Whole Foods’s Mackey: Libertarian Daydreams, “Fascist” Nightmares, And Real People’s Health


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-428-1837

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @