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Applying Contextual Integrity to the Health Domain


OCTOBER 29, 2021

Helen Nissenbaum,PhD
Professor, Cornell Tech
Information Science
Director, Digital Life Initiative

About the Presentation: The theory of contextual integrity (CI) defines privacy as appropriate flow of personal information answering a societal need for a concept of privacy that, simultaneously, is meaningful, explains why privacy is worth caring about, and underscores why we must protect it. I argue that contextual integrity meets all three of these benchmarks. CI requires that we bend away from one-dimensional ideas, which for decades have gripped the privacy domain, namely, control over information about ourselves, stoppage of flow, or the fetishization of specific, “sensitive” attributes (e.g. identity, health.) My talk will review key ideas behind CI and contrast it with alternative accounts. It draws on health care and health research domains, distinctive not only for their societal importance but for their evolved and nuanced thinking about privacy.

About the Presenter: Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Information Science at Cornell Tech. Her work spans societal, ethical, and political dimensions of information technology and digital media. Prof. Nissenbaum’s books include Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest, with Finn Brunton (MIT Press, 2015), Values at Play in Digital Games, with Mary Flanagan (MIT Press, 2014), and Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life (Stanford, 2010). Grants from the National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have supported her research. Recipient of the 2014 Barwise Prize of the American Philosophical Association, Prof. Nissenbaum has contributed to privacy-enhancing software, including TrackMeNot (for protecting against profiling based on Web search) and AdNauseam (protecting against profiling based on ad clicks). Both are free and freely available.

Prof. Nissenbaum holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University and a B.A. (Hons) from the University of the Witwatersrand. She received an honorary doctorate from Leuphana University at Lüneberg in 2017. She previously served as Associate Director of the Center for Human Values at Princeton University.