Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Widener on Wikileaks and Digital Disclosure

Michael N. Widener, Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman, & Balint; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, has published Wikileaks and Digital Disclosure: Beclouded Muckraking, Profit-Taking and Self-Promoting. Here is the abstract.

However the reader approaches the study of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, there are numerous applied ethical issues implicated by their lives. The paper asks, among other questions, whether a new norm exists that defines personal information and statistics as a “public good.” Under this view anyone using the Internet seemingly has relinquished any direct ownership claim to her data or images of resemblance. In truth, part of data ownership is about control over our person, control over the story conveyed about us, and control over what can be known about us. The meaning of the data is something that the person who generates the data can never really be detached from; so, to that extent personal data represents intimate aspects of ourselves that we can't be separated from no matter the motive of the party seeking to separate the individual from the narrative. Loss of control over personal information is especially troubling in the current environment in which enterprises like Google cannot form or keep intact ethics boards charged with directing policy on extracting, bundling and sharing of personal information of users of SaaS and Web platforms. The fact that California in 2018 passed the CCPA is cold comfort given the "personal-data gold rush" underway evidenced in the business of mining, bundling and sale of information. Remaining competitive, it seems, is more consequential than being respectful, or even cognizant, of the individual's personhood. The essay is a vehicle for reflection for students in the author's business ethics classes about one of the essential moral issues of our time: the destructive social and personal impacts of compromised personal privacy in the digital-platform era.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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