Timing as a Factor in Privacy Protection

G. Bernstein (USA)


Privacy, Internet, Regulation, Design


In this paper I seek to overcome the common resistance to early intervention with new technologies and examine in which instances timing becomes of the essence in the shaping of innovations. I focus the social shaping inquiry on the development of non-privacy norms among the Internet’s commercial users in order to shed light on the timing quandary. Currently, over a decade after commercial entities started collecting personal information on the Internet, non-privacy norms have become entrenched. I identify three technological characteristics of the Internet that lead to the rapid entrenchment of non privacy norms on the Internet. These characteristics are: (i) the critical mass point quality; (ii) decentralization; and (iii) concealed monitoring. I propose that where a technology manifests these characteristics consideration of timing is particularly important in implementing both legal and technological measures.

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