The social dynamics of secrecy: Rethinking information and privacy through Georg Simmel


  • Sami Coll


This article argues that Georg Simmel’s ideas on secrecy can shed new light on current debates around the relevance or otherwise of privacy as a protection against surveillance interventions. It suggests an interactional approach to privacy, and considers it as a dynamic process which redefines the boundary between what information should be disclosed and what information should be concealed in every social interaction. Simmel argues that this “natural” process relies on the identification of the interlocutor: her psychological/emotional involvement in the relationship, her social position in society and the representation of her expectations. Recent empirical examples show that this interactional perspective may have the potential to reconcile differing privacy accounts, by linking theoretically different levels that are factually distinct: privacy as a collective fact, as a contextual integrity, and as an individual fact.




How to Cite

Coll, Sami. 2012. “The Social Dynamics of Secrecy: Rethinking Information and Privacy through Georg Simmel”. The International Review of Information Ethics 17 (July). Edmonton, Canada:15-20.