On April 6-8 the Center for the Study of American Democracy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, held its fourth biennial conference, this year oriented around "The Expectation of Privacy." The conference involved broad student, faculty and campus participation and also programming throughout the 2015-16 academic year.
The theme involves everyone who owns a smart phone, uses the internet or is even present in modern society. Online identity, health records, economic data and daily habits are increasingly tracked and stored in private, commercial and government databases.
As the expectation of privacy diminishes, the distinction between public and private becomes more questionable — and yet that distinction forms the basis of Western liberal democracy and the idea of limited government. Technological, commercial and security developments seem to make "the private sphere" a vanishing space while, at the same time, new technologies contribute to greater discretion.
The conference was made possible in part by support from a “We the People” Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, the George L. Ohrstrom Jr. Foundation and the Columbus Dispatch.