During Marymount’s 2011 Ethics Awareness Week activities this February, students and faculty tackled the thorny privacy issues that have arisen out of social networking, the tracking of internet traffic, airport screening, and the security of education and health records.
The week’s activities were capped by Dr. Amitai Etzioni, professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University and director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, who delivered Marymount’s annual GEICO Ethics Lecture. In a presentation titled “The Limits of Privacy,” Dr. Etzioni talked about the necessity of balancing individual privacy and the public good. He maintained, “The biggest threat to privacy is not ‘Big Brother’ but all the little ones” – meaning that, while concerns about government access to private records may be valid, individuals should be more concerned about corporations that collect personal data and sell it or use it for marketing purposes.
Dr. Etzioni concluded that Americans will continue to grapple with the difficult question of when it is acceptable to breach an individual’s privacy, and he urged that the need to balance privacy with the public good should be a determining factor in such decisions.