Conference notes – Research ethics in the virtual world

Agnes Nairn
E.M. Lyon Business School

Privacy was first defined in the Harvard Law Review in 1890 as 'the right to be let alone' (Warren & Brandeis 1890). Fast forward a century to 1999 and the chief executive of Sun Microsystems declared, 'You have zero privacy. Get over it' (McNealy 1999). So, is privacy a defunct concept for the Surveillance Society we now live in? I, for one, hope not.

Interestingly, legal experts such as Alan Westin (1967a, 1967b) began to create a framework for regulating data collection in the computer age as early as the 1960s. Westin introduced the idea of control and proposed that consumers should exercise intellectual property rights over the collection and usage of personal data. More recently this framework has come to include the idea of knowledge, with Foxman and Kilcoyne (1993) distinguishing 'privacy states operationally on the basis of who controls consumer data and whether or not consumers are informed about data collection and privacy rights'. The MRS Code of Conduct (2005) rests firmly on these principles of control and knowledge: 'respondents' cooperation is voluntary and must be based on adequate, and not misleading, information' (fourth principle of the Code).