Trial and error: does the public's right to know really mean the new media's right to reveal?

Kiernan, Brenda
Hirst, Martin
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

The growth of digital technologies over the last thirty years has meant that now, more than ever, the ways we access and communicate information has important ramifications when balancing the right of privacy with the public right to know. Increasingly the sophistication of these new technologies has meant that our legal capability to deal with privacy infringement is found wanting and laws that were created in the pre-digital era are lagging behind in an age where information has become a commodity and the world, literally, a paying customer. This study found New Zealand, as in other comparable countries, is beginning to address concerns around privacy issues that new media has exposed and also highlights the need for individual awareness of what control they have over their information once posted online. Harms this study identified from the misuse of personal information ranged from identity theft through to intrusive surveillance and, possible threats to our civil liberties in the name of “national security”. A possible solution to privacy tensions caused when new media and the public’s right to know collide is that proposed by Professor Nissenbaum of New York University, and that is the contextual integrity framework. This framework highlights the need for constraints to be imposed on flows of information in the context of how this information is collected. Information revealed in a particular context always bears the tag of that context and if this information is subsequently used for a purpose other than what it was intended then contextual integrity has been breached. This study recommends collaboration between digital developers and programmers in developing a formal expression of contextual integrity and an adoption of this framework by all institutions involved in the collection, sharing and dissemination of information.

Privacy , New media , Law Commission , Privacy Act , Social media sites
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