Transparency in the Information Era: Good or Evil?

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-9-126-138
T. Rovinskaya (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

Abstract. The article problematizes the condition of “transparency”, which arose in the information era and is attributed to the intensive development of information technologies. This refers to governmental accountability, on the one hand, and unavoidable personal transparency for the State and interest groups, on the other. The author attempts to answer the question, whether this condition is useful or harmful for an individual, a society and the State as a whole. In the first part of the paper, the issue of the governmental transparency is investigated. Retrospectively, it has been recognized as a democratic imperative since the mid-18th century, and is presently entrenched in the democratic law and practice worldwide. At the same time, such condition poses significant risks to the state security, which was proven by two major international rows of 2010s resulting from disclosures by WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. The second part of the article addresses the controversy between the democratic right to privacy, including the personal data security, and a substantial individual transparency due to use of modern electronic devices, mobile and computer networks. The manifestation of George Orwell’s “Big Brother” in the modern world – both, in authoritarian states like China in form of a social rating, and in democratic countries in different hidden forms – is acknowledged. Thus, the individual transparency is not only the human rights issue, but also a problem of personal security. In the last part, possible solutions for the conflict between state interests, civil rights and new technologies are defined. The author comes to a conclusion that, despite both technical possibilities of individual privacy/personal data protection and organized opposition in democratic states to the intrusion on people’s privacy on behalf of the government or interest groups, the civil society is losing this battle. Whereas no acute contradiction of the kind exists in authoritarian states, under democracy it needs to be solved in compliance with civil rights and freedoms enshrined in law. From this viewpoint, the governmental transparency is considered a definite boon to society, while the individual transparency for the State and other actors – a complete “evil”.

Keywords: transparency, information technologies, government transparency, national security, privacy, personal data protection, WikiLeaks, Snowden, social rating, China


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For citation:
Rovinskaya T. Transparency in the Information Era: Good or Evil?. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 9, pp. 126-138.

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