In an interview published in Wired magazine on November 12, 2013, Steven Levy asked Bill Gates, in virtue of recent NSA revelations, “What is the proper balance of surveillance and security, and where do we go from here?”[1] Gates responded, “Historically, privacy was almost implicit, because it was hard to find and gather information. But in the digital world, whether it's digital cameras or satellites or just what you click on, we need to have more explicit rules - not just for governments but for private companies.”[2] In many ways Gates’ thought anticipates my project. In the pages to follow, I will outline how, under current conditions, the rise of mass data collection will give way to mass blackmail of private citizens per ideas put forth by Bernard Mandeville, Daniel Ellsberg, and others. Additionally, I will show how, even if this mass blackmail campaign improves the overall economy as well as the behavior of the vast majority of actors, it is still harmful in virtue of its explicit disregard for personhood (as defined by Charles Taylor) since it invades one’s privacy and alters cognitive development. This part of the paper will also reference relevant selections from James Rachels, Charles Fried, and Stanley Benn, and will give an account of privacy that precludes significant incursion even if that incursion could be justified in a utilitarian sense.

[1] Levy, Steven. "Bill Gates and President Bill Clinton on the NSA, Safe Sex, and American Exceptionalism." Wired. Conde Nast, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

[2] Ibid.


Rudisill, John




Business Law, Public Responsibility, and Ethics | Science and Technology Studies


Blackmail, Surveillance, Business ethics, Privacy, Personhood, Spying

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2017 Harrison S. Ruprecht