How Much Does a “Privacy” Weigh?

Paul Rosenzweig
Content Type
Journal Article
Fletcher Security Review
Issue Number
Publication Date
Summer 2019
The Fletcher School, Tufts University
Benjamin Franklin is famous, in part, for having said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Though historical evidence suggests Franklin’s quote has been misinterpreted,[1] the aphorism has come to stand for the proposition that privacy and security stand in opposition to each other, where every increase in security likely results in a commensurate decrease in privacy, and vice versa. ​ Couched in those terms, the privacy/security trade-off is a grim prospect. We naturally want both privacy and security to the greatest extent possible. But Franklin tells us this is impossible — that privacy and security are locked in a zero-sum game where the gain of one comes only at the loss of the other. ​ Of course, this characterization is assuredly flawed; it is certainly possible to adopt systems that maximize both privacy and security in a Pareto optimal way. That is one of the reasons why so many privacy and security experts simply revile the “balancing” metaphor — it obscures more than it illuminates... ​
Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Privacy
Political Geography
Global Focus, United States of America