How is Political Privacy Different from Personal Privacy? An Argument from Democratic Governance

Main Article Content

Aleksandra Samonek


In this paper I discuss the political value of the right to privacy. The classical accounts of privacy do not differentiate between privacy as the right of a citizen against other citizens vs. the right to privacy as the right against the state or the government. I shall argue that this distinction should be made, since the new context of the privacy debate has surpassed the historical frames in which the intelligence methods used by governments were comparable to those available to individuals. I also present cases in which political privacy serves as an instrument of protecting important collective agendas exceeding the context of personal privacy. I argue that due to its function, political privacy should be considered a necessary element of democratic governance with the rule of law, imposing legal bounds on governments’ discretionary actions.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Samonek, Aleksandra. (2021) 2021. “How Is Political Privacy Different from Personal Privacy? An Argument from Democratic Governance”. Diametros 18 (70):64-77.
Share |


Allen A.L. (1988), Uneasy Access: Privacy for Women in a Free Society, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Totowa.

Beardsley E. (1971), “Privacy: Autonomy and Selective Disclosure,” NOMOS. Yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy XIII: Privacy: 56–70.

Benn S.I., Gaus G.F. (eds.) (1983), Public and Private in Social Life, St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Carrera S., Fuster G.G., Guild E. et al. (2015), Access to Electronic Data by Third-Country Law Enforcement Authorities. Challenges to EU Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights, CEPS, Bruxelles.

Creemers R. (2018), “China’s Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control,” URL = [Accessed 18.11.2021].

Engelstein L. (1993), “Combined Underdevelopment: Discipline and the Law in Imperial and Soviet Russia,” The American Historical Review 98 (2): 338–353.

Gavison R. (1980), “Privacy and the Limits of Law,” The Yale Law Journal 89 (3): 421–471.

Gillis A.R. (1989), “Crime and State Surveillance in Nineteenth-Century France,” American Journal of Sociology 95 (2): 307–341.

Hassine W.B. (2016), “The Crime of Speech: How Arab Governments Use the Law to Silence Expression Online,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Report, URL = les/2016/04/28/crime-of-speech.pdf [Accessed 12.12.2017].

Johnson D.G. (1985), Computer Ethics, [in:] L. Floridi, The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information, Blackwell Publishing, Malden.

Lazer D.M., Baum M.A., Benkler Y. et al. (2018), “The Science of Fake News,” Science 359 (6380): 1094–1096.

Levy M.A. (1995), “Is the Environment a National Security Issue?,” International Security 20 (2): 35–62.

Meillassoux M. (2017), “Nothing to Hide,” a documentary film, URL = [Accessed 1.11.2017].

Moor J.H. (1990), “The Ethics of Privacy Protection,” Library Trends 39 (1 and 2): 69–82.

Moor J.H. (1997), “Towards a Theory of Privacy in the Information Age,” ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society 27 (3): 27–32.

Newman J. (2009), “Google’s Schmidt Roasted for Privacy Comments,” URL = [Accessed 15.11.2017].

O’Donnell G.A. (2004), “Why the Rule of Law Matters,” Journal of Democracy 15 (4): 32–46.

OHCHR (2016), “UN Rights Experts Urge France to Protect Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism,” OHCHR Press Release, URL = [Accessed 18.11.2021].

Parent W.A. (1983), “Privacy, Morality, and the Law,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 12 (4): 269–288.

Porter A.J., Hellsten I. (2014), “Investigating Participatory Dynamics through Social Media Using a Multideterminant “Frame” Approach: The Case of Climategate on YouTube,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 19 (4): 1024–1041.

Przeworski A., Maravall J.M. (eds.) (2003), Democracy and the Rule of Law, vol. 5, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Rachels J. (1975), “Why Privacy is Important,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 4 (4): 323–333.

Reingold D.A. (1999), “Social Networks and the Employment Problem of the Urban Poor,” Urban Studies 36 (11): 1907–1932.

Raz J. (1977), “The Rule of Law and its Virtue,” Law Quarterly Review 93 (2): 195–211.

Rindfleisch T. (1997), “Privacy, Information Technology, and Health Care,” Communications of the ACM 40 (8): 92–101.

Sauer N. (2019), “French Counter-Terrorism Targets Climate Activists,” URL = [Accessed 12.12.2019].

Silverglate H. (2011), Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, Encounter Books, New York, London.

Scalia A. (1989), “The Rule of Law as a Law of Rules,” The University of Chicago Law Review 56 (4): 1175–1188.

Schoeman D.F. (ed.) (1984), Philosophical Dimensions of Privacy: An Anthology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Sprenger P. (1999), “Sun on Privacy: ‘Get Over It’,” URL = [Accessed 22.12.2017].

Tamanaha B.Z. (2004), On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Tavani H.T., Moor J.H. (2001), “Privacy Protection, Control of Information, and Privacy-Enhancing Technologies,” ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society 31 (1): 6–11.

Taylor I. (2017), “Data Collection, Counterterrorism and the Right to Privacy,” Politics, Philosophy & Economics 16 (3): 326–346.

Tréguer, F. (2016), “From deep state illegality to law of the land: The case of internet surveillance in France,” URL = [Accessed 25.11.2019].

Viseu A., Clement A., Aspinall J. (2004), “Situating Privacy Online: Complex Perceptions and Everyday Practices,” Information, Communication & Society 7 (1): 92–114.

Vogel E.A., Rose J.P., Roberts L.R. et al. (2014), “Social Comparison, Social Media, and Self-Esteem,” Psychology of Popular Media Culture 3 (4): 206–222.

Warren S., Brandeis L. (1984), “The Right to Privacy,” [in:] F.D. Schoeman (ed.), Philosophical Dimensions of Privacy: An Anthology, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Westin A.F. (1968), “Privacy and Freedom,” Washington and Lee Law Review 25 (1): 166.

Westin A.F. (2003), “Social and Political Dimensions of Privacy,” Journal of Social Issues 59 (2): 431–453.

Wolfers A. (1952), “’National Security’ as an Ambiguous Symbol,” Political Science Quarterly 67 (4): 481–502.

Zelikow P. (2003), “The Transformation of National Security: Five Redefinitions,” The National Interest 71: 17–28.

Zhang H., Shu Y., Cheng P. et al. (2016), “Privacy and Performance Trade-Off in Cyber-Physical Systems,” IEEE Network 30 (2): 62–66.

Zuboff S. (2019), The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Pluto Press, New York.