Hannah Arendt Center Conferences
[Why Privacy Matters]

Hannah Arendt Center and Center for Civic Engagement present:

Why Privacy Matters

Thursday, October 15, 2015 – Friday, October 16, 2015 Olin Hall

What Do We Lose When We Lose Our Privacy?

This event occurred on:  Thu. October 15 – Fri. October 16

Edward SnowdenReading on Kindles, searching Google, and using cell phones, we leave a data trail of intimate details. Governments and businesses track our comings, goings, and doings. Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems, speaks for many when he says, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” It is easy to note the violence of the slogan “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” but few offer an intelligent response. Why do we willfully participate in the loss of our privacy? How is it that we rarely register its loss? Do we simply value privacy less? It is time to ask why privacy matters? 
Hannah Arendt saw the private realm as the essential refuge for human uniqueness. In daily life, she writes, we “return back from the outside world and withdraw into the security of private life within four walls.” These walls of the private “enclose a secure place, without which no living thing can thrive.” For Arendt, “Everything that lives, not vegetative life alone, emerges from darkness and, however strong its natural tendency to thrust itself into the light, it nevertheless needs the security of darkness to grow at all.” Privacy guards the dark recesses of the human heart.

What is lost when the dark recesses of the heart are exposed to the light of public censure? Love grows in secret and loyalty trumps formal rules of fairness. We all transgress taboos and even a few laws. Yet, when we are forced to police private urges and actions by public standards, our belief in public morality appears hypocritical. Distrusting ourselves, we trust no one, which is the source of cynicism of political life. It is amidst a sense that privacy is being lost and we are powerless to resist that loss that the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College will host our 8th Annual Conference, “Why Privacy Matters” Our conference will consider the following questions:
  • Does our loss of control over our data impact our inner lives?
  • Is freedom possible in world without privacy?
  • When indiscretions are knowable, who will have the courage to enter public life?
  • Can we hold government and business accountable for their use of private data?
  • Why is government becoming more secret as individuals embrace transparency?
  • Do we have a meaningful right to be left alone?
Above all, we want to ask: How can a right to privacy and a meaningful private life exist today? Click the icon below to access our conference's reading list!