Bioethics Blogs

A Generation Gap Between Privacy & Confidentiality

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

I was sitting in a quiet coffee house when a woman at the other end of the café says loudly into her phone, “ I can send in a copy of the pregnancy test but I really need to have this ultrasound scheduled. The doctor is worried about doing my procedure if I’m pregnant.” Although a private business, a coffee house has a long tradition of being a public space. So why would someone have such a privileged, intimate conversation in public where others can clearly hear (especially when we’d prefer not to).

I’ve written extensively in this blog space about risks to privacy in modern society, whether that be in medical records, implantable technology, how we share our personal information to the world, recording medical encounters, recording residents in nursing homes, and companies selling your prescription information. This does not even touch on the debates about companies and the government spying on us through our online and cell use.

Yet every minute we share 2.5 million items on Facebook, tweet 300,000 items, post 220,000 photos on Instagram, and more. We are warned to be careful about our sharing because employers may check our online life before making hiring decisions. That silly moment on vacation that someone recorded on their phone, it’s gotten millions of hits online and make you look like someone with little judgment. Sharing an article about a particular political candidate, now a potential employer knows your political views. Think about the secret (and illegal) recordings made by the Center for Medical Progress against Planned Parenthood.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.