Beyond individual-centric privacy: Information technology in social systems

Wolter Pieters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


In the public debate, social implications of information technology are mainly seen through the privacy lens. Impact assessments of information technology are also often limited to privacy impact assessments, which are focused on individual rights and well-being, as opposed to the social environment. In this article, I argue that this perspective is too narrow, in terms of understanding the complexity of the relation between information technology and society, as well as in terms of directions for managing this relation. I use systems theory to show that current approaches focus mostly on individual impact of information technology developments rather than their mediating role in society itself. I argue that this should be complemented by an analysis of impact on individuals (psychic systems) via co-construction of the environment (social system). I then take up the question of what the role of information technology in social systems would look like in terms of the social relations of trust and power, and how this can complement privacy in discussions on impacts of information technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-281
Number of pages11
JournalInformation Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Impact assessment
  • information technology
  • privacy
  • social sustainability
  • social systems
  • systems theory


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