Thinking about Privacy

A Discussion Plan for Parents & Educators

By: Ariel Sykes, Assistant Director of the Ethics Institute

Recent events raise many important ethical questions. This week we would like to encourage you to think and talk with others about the topic of privacy. As we consider how best to ensure public safety during a pandemic, we will have to think carefully about privacy concerns. Please use this discussion plan to help you delve deeper into this topic, so you can better understand where you and others stand.

Tips for Facilitating Discussions:

  • Guide, Don’t Dictate: Let participants talk and develop their ideas by avoiding telling them what you think or what they should think. As a facilitator, support the discussion by keeping it anchored to the questions and ensuring the group is making meaningful progress. Avoid dictating where you want the thinking to go.
  • Dialogue, Don’t Debate: The goal of the discussion is to develop reasonable positions (even if just tentative answers) to the questions, not to win an argument. This requires that we hear a variety of perspectives, and the facilitator should invite a variety of viewpoints. Ethical discussions should also include evaluating ideas generated by the group through respectful disagreement, examination of assumptions, and instance on accuracy.
  • Talk with each other, Not at each other: The discussion should be seen as a collective effort. Encourage participants to talk with one another (and not at you) by actively listening and building on each others ideas. Help support this type of environment by inviting everyone to speak, not taking too much “air time” as the facilitator, and reminding people when to step back in order to “share the air.”

What is Privacy?

  • How do you define privacy?
  • What does privacy mean in your country? In other countries?
  • How do others define privacy… (either ask them or imagine their possible answers by making an educated guess)
    • Teachers
    • Doctors
    • Political Leaders
    • A Young Child
    • A Famous Person

Is Privacy a Right?

  • Do we always have a right to privacy? 
  • Is it a fundamental right, like the right to be free? 
  • Do people have a duty to honor my privacy (such as to not spy on me)?

Should there be limits to privacy?

  • When, if ever, is it okay to violate someone’s privacy?
  • Should our expectations around what privacy looks like depend on the type of…
    • People: Whose privacy are we talking about?
    • Context: Does the type of situation matter?
    • Content: Should privacy expectations change based on the type of information involved?
    • _________: Should it depend on anything else?

What are the unintended consequences and challenges created by privacy?

  • What are the benefits of privacy (why do we value it)? 
  • What makes privacy challenging or difficult to ensure?
  • What are some harms that privacy can cause (when can privacy be a bad thing)?

What does privacy look like in your life?

  • How do you value privacy in your life? 
  • What does “privacy” look and feel like to you?
    • How does it feel when your privacy is respected?
    • How does it feel when your privacy is violated?
  • How have you used the value of privacy when making a difficult decision?

Let us know how your discussions go! Leave us a comment or tag us on social media!