Understandings of Privacy

But, as we have seen, these understandings of privacy are undergoing dramatic changes. This is in part because globalization, as itself driven by the rapid diffusion of digital media, often thereby increases our awareness of and interactions with one another cross-culturally. This in turn leads to a hybridization of diverse cultural values and practices. In particular, as young people in Asia enjoy a growing material wealth and thereby a growing physical personal space (i.e., their own room in a family dwelling – something more or less nonexistent a few decades ago), and as they are ever more aware, thanks to global media, of Western notions and practices regarding individual privacy, they increasingly insist on personal and individual privacy in ways that are baffling (at best) and frustrating (at worst) to their parents and their parents’ generation.

These shifts can be seen most dramatically in terms of the laws surrounding privacy – indeed, following these changing understandings of selfhood, and thus what counts as “privacy” in both “Western” and “Eastern” countries, privacy laws have changed so much over the past decade or so that the two cultures move, in effect, ever closer to one another. To see how this is so, we take a brief look first at the European Union and then at the United States.

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