Article Analysis Essay on "Why is Privacy Important"

Published: 2023-09-13
Article Analysis Essay on "Why is Privacy Important"
Type of paper:  Article review
Categories:  Law Relationship
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1095 words
10 min read


James Rachel’s article, “Why is Privacy Important,” argues for the importance of privacy and responds to Judith Jarvis Thompson simplifying hypothesis. I agree with Rachel’s central argument that privacy is important because people have a different conception of their relationship with other people. That conception is inseparable from their idea of how to behave around such people and appropriate information for them to have (Rachel, 1975, p.329). According to Rachels (1975, p.323), and that is why the right place to start in the importance of privacy is with the characterization of the particular interest that people have in being able to be free from various kinds of intrusions. People might want to protect their privacy for competitive reasons, fear of embarrassment, protection of personal relationships, or financial reasons. However, such cases do not cover, what Rachel, refers to as ‘normal’ circumstances. Normal circumstances are those which the person has nothing to hide. These are the situations that shall give an essential picture of the importance of privacy. Rachel shows that in such instances, then the importance of privacy lies in its impact on the relationship. Privacy is essential because it enables people to develop various relationships, and provides a means for the maintenance of such relationships.

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The strength of the relationship between two people is determined by the amount of relationship that the individuals are willing to share amongst themselves. That aspect of people’s relationships has been indicated in Rachel’s article. According to Rachel (1975, p. 326), there is a close relationship between people’s ability to control the people that have access to information about them and their ability to create and maintain different types of social relationships with different people. Privacy is an integral part of creating and maintenance of relationships. For example, people in a support group may build relationships based on the information that they share amongst themselves. They feel comfortable sharing information around one another because they feel that the other group members are in the same situation as themselves. Another scenario is Person A and Person B, bonding and developing a close relationship due to their shared hate for Person C. There is even a common saying that goes, “an enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Such sayings mean that the two people are bonding towards their collective hate towards someone else. Their shared interests might be something that they do not prefer to share with someone else because of the fear of consequences. For such people, their ability to control who has access to them and information about them is directly proportional to their ability to maintain such a relationship. Take this another example, supposedly Person A has a change of heart, and his hate towards Person C disappears, then he has the option of choosing whether to disclose the information to Person B or not. Disclosing the information might end their friendship or weaken it. Therefore, Person-A is using his ability to determine who has information about his new-found love for Person-C to control his relationship with Person-B as well as maintain it. The strength of the relationship between Person-A and B is determined by the amount of information that Person-A is willing to disclose to Person-B.

Relevant Objections

The opposers of the value of privacy posit that there is something hypocritical towards the use of information to create or maintain relationships. Rachels uses the example of a man who does not swear in his mother-in-law’s presence but does the opposite with his friends (Rachels, 1975, p.327). The opposers would argue that such kind of behavior is a display of hypocrisy or pretense and that the mother in law has the right to know the real son in law. They view privacy as a way for people to cover hypocrisy and pretense for their gain and at the expense of other people.


People have and have the right to maintain different relationships with other people based on their conception of what is appropriate. The relationship between people is based on their conception of what they think is appropriate to behave and share in front of one another (Rachels, 1975, p. 328). It would certainly be inappropriate for someone to be forced to have an intimate relationship with someone that they do not want. Take the example of an employer and his employee. The two people enjoy what would be termed as a professional relationship. That is, there are certain types of employee’s information that the employer has the right to know because of their relationship. These include information such as salaries, bank account information, contact details, and even address. The employee consented to share such information the moment he agreed to work for the employer. However, their professional relationship does not grant either of them access to information such as the other person’s sex life. The withholding of such information is what each of them perceives as maintaining a professional relationship between them. A revelation of the bedroom matters of either of the two parties will change the nature of their relationship. Each of them has the right to choose whether they want to maintain the nature of their relationship or escalate it. It does not mean that either of them is being hypocritical of deceitful in their withholding of such information.

Furthermore, they can choose to deescalate their relationship by terminating the employee’s employment. In such a case, the employer has lost the right to know information such as the former employee’s new address or their income. Once again, the withholding of such information does not show pretense or hypocrisy. It just their conception of the kind of relationship that they think is appropriate.


As a result, the value of privacy lies in the fact that it allows us to choose the kind of relationships that we would want to have and maintain with people. Information shared between people determines the nature of their relationship, and if they do not have control over who gets access to such information, then they cannot control the type of people that get access to them. Such kind of behavior does not make them pretenders, because people have different conceptions of what they deem appropriate behaviors and relationships. A limitation of the argument is that it does not cover the situations where private information violates the rights or laws of other people or the land.


Rachels, J. (1975). Why privacy is important? Philosophy & Public Affairs, 323-333.

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