Department or Program



Privacy often bears an assumed connection to political freedom, but the nature of that connection is underdeveloped. I take a control definition of privacy: to be in a condition of privacy is to have control over who has access to your information. Violations on the distinctive right to privacy occur when one reneges on the social obligation to respect this condition in particular contexts. I argue that our intuitions are correct: such violations are essentially wrong because they are freedom-reducing. Philosophers of freedom debate whether a positive or negative conception of freedom is best, whether freedom is specific or “overall,” and whether one’s freedom can be measured. I defend a concept of negative, overall freedom that can be approximated and compared from person to person. Since under the negative conception one is free to the extent one lacks constraints on action, I then identify the constraints imposed by privacy violations in two contexts: commercial data collection and government surveillance. The nonconsensual nature of most digital information transactions marks a privacy violation, for the quantity of information exchanged is too great to be controlled and violators have incentives to uphold secrecy. These violations reduce our freedom by imposing constraints on individual control.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Cummiskey, David

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2014

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.