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Glossary » privacy


the principle of protecting private information about people, especially in shared or collaborative systems, and of helping to keep people free of distractions. Privacy may be provided for security reasons, to keep people (such as celebrities) from being deluged with people contacting them, or to simply allow people to protect personal information from being shared with others (for whatever reason).

In many systems, privacy is in tension with a legitimate desire to share information to help people coordinate (as in ‘awareness’ systems). Ethical concerns need to guide how we decide what information to make available and how. One example is the principle of reciprocity, which says that people can not find information about you without making the same information about themselves available to you. Of course, the principle of reciprocity alone is not sufficient. Another concern is that people sometimes need to share certain information about themselves for reasons of security or accountability.