From Cyborgs to Quantified Selves: Augmenting Privacy Rights with User-Centric Technology and Design
Transhuman enhancements—technologies that boost human capabilities—are everywhere: bodily implants, wearables, portable devices, and smart devices embedded in everyday spaces. A key feature of these technologies is their capacity to generate data from the user side and ‘give back’ that data to users in the form of personalized insights that can influence future choices and actions. Increasingly, our choices are made at the shifting interface between freedom and data, and these enhancements are transforming everyone into human-digital cyborgs or quantified selves.
These personalized insights promise multiple benefits for diverse stakeholders, most obviously greater self-understanding, and better decision-making for end-users, and new business opportunities for firms. Nevertheless, concerns remain. These technologies contribute to the emergence of new forms of post-Foucauldian surveillance that raise difficult questions about the meaning, limits, and even possibility of privacy.
As personal choice becomes increasingly dependent on data, traditional legal conceptions of privacy that presuppose an independent and settled sphere of private life over which an autonomous ‘person’ enjoys dominion become strained. Transformations in the practice of privacy are occurring, and we are experiencing the augmentation of a narrative of the protection of privacy rights of persons with a more situational, human-centered, and technology-driven conception of privacy-by-design. This article describes such privacy enhancing technologies and raises the question of whether such an approach to privacy is adequate to the complex realities of the contemporary data ecosystem and emerging forms of digital subjectivity.
Privacy enhancing technologies