Entry Nr 6: What is the opposite of Panopticon Contest? : Rolf Weber

Prof. Dr. Rolf H. Weber, University of Zurich: "Panopticon and Footsteps

Bentham’s Panopticon designs a type of building allowing the „controller“ to observe inmates  without enabling them to find out whether or not they are being watched. However, the virtual world of today cannot only be described with the Panopticon since the manifold privacy risks exceed the famous  Orwellian„big brother is watching you“. Moreover, the problem of traces in the Internet causes major concerns: The most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, once observed, „there is no branch of detective science which is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps“. This statement is still true; now the detectives can trace the virtual footprints left on the roads and the backbones of the information superhighway.


Associated with the concept of privacy is personal autonomy going back to the notion of self-directiveness or self-normativity; in their seminal article, Warren/Brandeis were referring to the right to be let alone. Consequently this approach of autonomy could lead to complete anonymity occurring if a person’s identity being involved in a not-transparent/not-disclosed process is non-determinable since the acting person remains unknown to the other acting entities or makes no appearance towards the other participants. Such kind of (anonimous) autonomy does not necessarily comply with the requirements of the public order and the standards of societal ethics. Therefore, the challenge consists in finding the proper design of autonomy and heteronomy in the informational environment leading to new ideas such as contextual integrity."



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