What Is Privacy?
Privacy has been defined as “a state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people.” It has also been defined as “the state of being free from public attention.” However, it is fair to say that privacy means different things to different people, depending on their background. This is especially true since various cultures have varying outlooks on what a person’s privacy rights entail.
According to IAPP, privacy can broadly be defined as the right to be alone or the freedom from invasion or prying. IAPP further defined ‘Information privacy’ as the right to control how personal information is collected and used.
Privacy is a fundamental human right.
Provided for and protected under all major international and regional human right instruments. Such as in:
What is the provision of the law regarding privacy rights?
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary for a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
The global scope of privacy.
According to privacyinternational.org, more than 130 countries from every region worldwide have constitutional provisions regarding privacy protection. Some privacy and data protection laws are now provided in more than 100 countries. These speak volumes as to the importance of privacy.
However, when people think of privacy, what most likely comes to mind are things like the invasion by social media into personal data. For targeted advertising amongst other reasons. Colossal data breaches, wearable technology, tracking devices and Apps and so on. And rightly so, as these are some of the everyday ways individuals’ privacy rights are impacted.
It is common knowledge that technology in today’s world is fast becoming more and more complex (with “speed-of-light technological innovation”). While this is happening, more and more data is being collected and exchanged. In order words, the more complex and intrusive technology becomes, the more complex the use of data becomes. This creates a situation whereby businesses and organisations have an elaborate and complex task of ensuring that their customers’ personal information is well protected.
Have you ever had a situation where you talk about something? And the very next time you are online, an advert on that thing you talked about pops up right in your face. Coincidence? Highly unlikely.
Still, wondering why privacy is important or how all this can directly affect you as an individual? Here are:
10 REASONS WHY PRIVACY MATTERS
1. Privacy has a direct effect on the control over a person’s life.
Many decisions about us are based on our personal information, which has a great influence or control over our lives. For instance, your personal information is used to decide whether you get investigated by the government. It is used to decide if you qualify for a job or whether your loan request is approved or denied.
Your personal information is one of the things that might trigger you to be searched when going through the airport. You must know that your personal information determines what content you see online, messages, adverts, etc. Thus personal data or information is of great importance and impacts practically everything in our life.
This, therefore, makes it imperative for you to know what information is being collected about you. And how that information is being processed and used. It is also important, where personal information use poses a threat or is likely to cause harm to the masses, for there to be channels, for us the people, to have the ability to object.
2. Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves.
It can definitely be a heavy burden and very draining, energy-wise, to constantly worry. Or care about how the people around us perceive the things we do. And most of the time, consciously or unconsciously, we adjust our behaviour, depending on where we are and the people around us. However, you do not have to put on a show for anybody when you are in the comfort of your own space and privacy. You do not need to explain or justify yourself to anyone but yourself. At such a time, you can relax, energise, and one hundred per cent be yourself, free from prying eyes and any form of judgement.
Therefore, one could say that privacy helps to preserve individual uniqueness in being oneself. Instead of trying to fit into the mould of how society projects what is acceptable for a person to say. Or how they should act etc. Privacy affords a person the latitude to be exactly how they want to be. Without necessarily having to share their uniqueness with the rest of the world, so to speak. Unless the person so desires or later decides to share.
Also, in this age of reality shows, social media oversharing etc., in the midst of all that, privacy allows people to be as selective as they would like with information they choose to share about themselves. It is presumably common knowledge that most, if not all, reality shows are pretty much scripted and very well edited. That says a lot; people love their privacy even when giving the illusion of oversharing.
3. Privacy and time spent alone foster more productivity.
Another way of looking at privacy could be simply having time for yourself. Although it is fun and entertaining to be around people as we are social beings, this can, however, gravy hamper your productivity. For the simple reason that getting work done is very distracting when in the company of others. In other words, time spent alone can truly be some of the most productive time for a person as there would be a lot fewer distractions, and a person can just put their head down and get much work done. Time spent with other people and time spent in the privacy of your own company would have to have a healthy balanced. However, what qualifies as a healthy balance differs from person to person as no two people are the same.
4. Privacy helps in the control and management of reputation.
As aforementioned, protection of privacy is a person’s fundamental human right. We have a right to choose what we want people to know about us. We have a right to control how we want to be perceived and what information we are willing to share with others. Privacy, therefore, allows people to control and manage their reputation, thus protecting one’s reputation from falsehoods and certain truths a person does not want to be known. Think about it. Most of the time, people judge others based on what they see, hear and know about that person. What people know about a person is not one hundred per cent all there is to know about that person.
5. Privacy Limits Power And External Control
The more personal information a person knows about you, the more power they can exert over you. Thus, privacy helps to set healthy boundaries with people. It helps to limit the power government, companies, and others have over people. Therefore, your data in the hands of the wrong person(s) can cause great harm in a great number of ways. Depending, however, on the peculiarities of your general life and career. However, personal data in the wrong hands can adversely affect your reputation, behaviour and decisions.
6. Privacy aids freedom of Political Activities
To a large extent, our privacy rights protect our ability to engage in political activity and have freedom of association. Imagine the insecurity or potential danger that would erupt if there was no privacy in casting ballots during an election. Privacy enables people to vote for who they truly want to, free from prying eyes trying to sway or unduly manipulate their vote.
7. Respect for an individual’s privacy signals respect for the individual
That is to say that, in most cases, a blatant disregard for a person’s privacy signals disrespect for the person, especially where there is no compelling reason for the breach of privacy in the first place. For instance, in some situations, a person’s entreat for privacy may do more harm than good.
8. The protection of privacy helps to meet compliance requirements.
Organisations run the risk of paying huge fines if they do not implement privacy protection (see EU GDPR). Furthermore, organisations could lose business relationships that are of great value to them by simply not complying with their contractual obligations for their clients’ privacy protections. Thereby breaking trust and contractual agreement. Organisations also run the risk of having up to 20-year penalties for non-compliance with standards, regulations and laws, as well as their very own published security and privacy notices.
9. Privacy enables people to grow and not be burdened by past mistakes.
Change is the only constant in life, and no one is perfect. Making mistakes is part of life. Many people learn from their mistakes and get a second chance at doing things right. Privacy thus enables such people to grow and become better versions of themselves, without the burden of their past mistakes, following them around, or hindering their growth. However, privacy laws do not protect against all ‘mistakes’.
10. Privacy helps in the establishment and maintenance of healthy social boundaries.
People generally establish informational and physical boundaries from others in society. As a good number of people, do not want everybody to know every single thing about them. And likewise, people also sometimes do not want to know every single little thing about other people. These boundaries help to make people feel safe. They also reduce social conflict, or disharmony, that we experience in everyday life.
People generally have an elaborate set of boundaries for the many different relationships they have regarding informational boundaries. For instance, the way a person behaves, and the information they share, when they are with very close friends and family is different from the behaviour and information shared when with not so close friends and family.
Concerning physical boundaries, some people like to retreat for seclusion to places where they are free from others’ prying eyes, which enables them to take a load off and unwind. And this need not be to some remote island. But perhaps, in the comfort and safety of one’s home.
Privacy thus makes it possible for people to manage these informational and physical boundaries. And a breach of these boundaries can cause embarrassing social situations and potentially lead to impaired relationships.
11. Privacy protects freedom of speech and thought.
Privacy protects your freedom of thought in the sense that having privacy over the information you consume enables you to explore concepts outside those that are popular or conventional. In the same vein, privacy enables you to speak your truth. Irrespective of what is conventionally acceptable. You can choose to say unpopular things to those you trust in order words. And yet, you may opt not to share this same sentiment(s) with the rest of the world.