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Privacy as Virtue discusses whether a rights-based approach to privacy regulation still suffices to address the challenges triggered by new data processing techniques such as Big Data and mass surveillance. A rights-based approach generally grants subjective rights to individuals to protect their personal interests. However, large-scale data processing techniques often transcend the individual and their interests. Virtue ethics is used to reflect on this problem and open up new ways of thinking. A virtuous agent not only respects the rights and interests of others, but also has a broader duty to act in the most careful, just and temperate way. This applies to citizens, to companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook and to governmental organizations that are involved with large scale data processing alike.
The author develops a three-layered model for privacy regulation in the Big Data era. The first layer consists of minimum obligations that are independent of individual interests and rights. Virtuous agents have to respect the procedural pre-conditions for the exercise of power. The second layer echoes the current paradigm, the respect for individual rights and interests. While the third layer is the obligation of aspiration: a virtuous agent designs the data process in such a way that human flourishing, equality and individual freedom are promoted.