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ObfuscationA User's Guide for Privacy and Protest$
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Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262029735

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262029735.001.0001

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Is Obfuscation Justified?

Is Obfuscation Justified?

(p.63) 4 Is Obfuscation Justified?

Finn Brunton

Helen Nissenbaum

The MIT Press

This chapter takes up moral and ethical arguments for and against obfuscation. Is obfuscation a form of lying, a waste of resources or a kind of pollution, an act of free riding on the willingness of others to disclose data about themselves, or even an attack on a data collection system itself? The authors discuss each of these objections in turn, urging readers to look beyond these immediate challenges toward deeper issues of ethical means and ends, and “informational justice” (drawing on the work of Rawls, in particular). It considers the moral obligations individuals owe, or do not owe, to data collectors, and vice versa. Finally, the authors turn to the distribution of risk in the collection of data, and discuss obfuscation as a strategy for equitably redistributing risk.

Keywords:   Obfuscation, Ethics, Data collection, Surveillance, Privacy, Risk, Governance

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