Thinking about a theoretical model for group privacy

I’ve been thinking about privacy from the perspective of the individual, the group, and society as a whole. And in particular whether it is possible to find or to develop a theoretical model which would be valid for all the different types/levels of privacy (individual, group, and society); or whether it would require separate models for each. The area that is the most complex is the category for “the group”

A few examples of groups might be:

– minorities

– indigenous people

– cultural groups

– linguistic groups

– religious groups

– trades unions

– sports teams

– residential units

– performing arts groups

– social clubs


Within the heading for groups I had provisionally broken this out into

– collective groups

– ascriptive groups

– ad hoc (algorithmically generated) groups

– ad hoc (non-algorithmically generated) groups


But I need to think through whether this breakdown is a useful one or not.

(Prentice, Miller et al. 1994) identifies common-bond groups (member attachment) and common-identity groups (group attachment)

(French 1984) identifies aggregate collectivities and conglomerate collectivities

(Newman 2004) identifies sets and collectivities


For me, an important aspect is groups that have a legal personality. Important because that will determine the legal rights that they have. Examples being:

  • Limited liability partnership
  • Company (shares)
  • Company (guarantee)
  • Trust
  • Association
  • Registered society (community benefit society)
  • Registered society (co-operative)


What I am trying to get my head around is, even if one is able to come up with a satisfactory breakdown of the different types of groups, how does that fit in with:

  • Whether they have any rights and duties
  • What are the risks and harms that they face
  • Would group members have knowledge/awareness that they were in the group
  • Do they have control or ownership of their data
  • Is membership of that group voluntary
  • What, if any, are the remedies available for data misuse


Should one be thinking solely in terms of personally identifiable information? What about demographically identifiable information, or DII, defined as either individual and / or aggregated data points that allow inferences to be drawn that enable the classification, identification, and/or tracking of both named and/or unnamed individuals, groups of individuals, and/or multiple groups of individuals according to ethnicity, economic class, religion, gender, age, health condition, location, occupation, and /or other demographically defining factors  (Taylor, Floridi et al. 2017).



FRENCH, P., 1984. Collective and corporate responsibility. Columbia University Press.

NEWMAN, D.G., 2004. Collective Interests and Collective Rights. The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 49(1), pp. 127-163.

PRENTICE, D.A., MILLER, D.T. and LIGHTDALE, J.R., 1994. Asymmetries in attachments to groups and to their members: Distinguishing between common-identity and common-bond groups. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20(5), pp. 484-493.

TAYLOR, L., FLORIDI, L. and VAN DER SLOOT, B., eds, 2017. Group privacy: new challenges of data technologies. Dordrecht: Springer.