Secrecy and Privacy in an Age of Transparency

Craig Scott (Communication)

There is little doubt that we live in an era where demands for transparency and openness are increasingly common. But these ideals often stand at odds with needs for secrecy and rights to privacy as individuals and organizations struggle to manage their visibility to others. The secrecy that exists in our most trusted institutions and among the closest of friends can represent cherished possessions and be used to protect people from those who might bring them harm; but secrecy and the revelation of those secrets can also be used to inflict great damage on societies and various relationships. In a similar way, the preservation of privacy has become a fundamental, global debate as we increasingly disclose information to others for the sake of convenience or social networking—often without knowing who might have access to those disclosures and how that information might be used.  This seminar will introduce students to some of the communication-based challenges surrounding issues of secrecy (e.g., public secrets, secrecy in relationships, secret societies, proprietary secrets, top secret classifications) and privacy (e.g., privacy law, privacy boundary management, surveillance/cybervetting, big data, privacy literacy) with an eye towards better understanding and more appropriately managing one’s visibility in this age where so much is made transparent.