An attempt to demystify the concept of Privacy

May 29, 2009 at 8:14 am 9 comments

Many of us don’t think twice about sharing our personal data – whether it be with a government department, our bank, an airline, a telecom operator, a hospital or clinic, or a social network. We don’t think it is our right to ask what they need the data for, how they are going to protect it, who will have access to it and what will they do with it once they have finished using it.

Why don’t we think about these things? Is it because we are very trusting? Is it because we believe that the data is actually needed by these organizations and we are sure they will keep it secure? I must admit that I thought that way for a very long time. But then quite recently I started asking questions when registering at a hotel or for a conference or even when filling out a form on a website. It just seemed wrong that so much information about me was available to so many people.Why did they need it? How much of it was essential? What would happen if I refused to share it? Could something be done at policy level to ensure that my right to privacy was protected.

So what is Privacy and why is it important? I put this question to Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International, on the sidelines of a Privacy workshop in Bangkok last week. Here is what he had to say:

Vickram Crishna, who was also a participant in the workshop decided to joint me on the interview panel and asked Simon Davies and Gus Hosein what role industry was playing or should play to ensure that the privacy of individuals was protected. Let us see what Simon and Gus had to say:

Since 9/11 our privacy has been invaded even more under the guise of national security. I asked Simon and Gus if this was not in fact necessary for our own safety. This is what they said:

Having talked with the experts, I thought I would turn my flip video toward Vickram Crishna who was one of the participants from the region. I asked him why he was at the Privacy Workshop and why he thought it was important for us to focus on this at all. Here is what he had to say:

The Privacy International website gives us an overview of what Privacy is.

Privacy is a fundamental human right. It underpins human dignity and other values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech.

Privacy is recognized around the world in diverse regions and cultures. It is protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights treaties. Nearly every country in the world includes a right of privacy in its constitution. At a minimum, these provisions include rights of inviolability of the home and secrecy of communications. Most recently written constitutions include specific rights to access and control one’s personal information. In many of the countries where privacy is not explicitly recognized in the constitution, the courts have found that right in other provisions. In many countries, international agreements that recognize privacy rights such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention on Human Rights have been adopted into law.

Entry filed under: Posts.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shahrukh Hasan  |  May 29, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Good post. ..makes me think. privacy?

    you are right that we give out too much personal information on many sign up sheets and RSVP forms.

    Now with new range of phishing attacks are upon us,, one thinks how much information is save which we have posted on government and banking institutes.

    These days we never think a sec before posting pictures and videos on these social networking and video sharing sites.. we have no perfect way of saying/telling that who is looking at our private information.

    I mark this my favorite post of the day. 😉

  • An attempt to demystify the concept of Privacy…

    Many of us don’t think twice about sharing our personal …

  • […] An attempt to demystify the concept of Privacy […]

  • 4. Shahzad Ahmad  |  May 29, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Excellent piece… gives a lot of clarity on the issue and then the way you have captured experts views. Thanks… and it was really generous to share this with all of us.

    Sure is a great post…

  • 5. Shahzad Ahmad  |  May 29, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Saaaaaad… I can’t share this blog on my facebook page 😦 I want to, How?

  • […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

  • 7. Anthony Mitchell  |  May 30, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    The comments by Simon Davies on the risks of a vendor-driven process capturing regulatory agencies (as clients) are spot on. This points to the need for strengthening institutional capabilities in the following subject areas:

    1. Data protection
    2. Identity management
    3. Procurement procedures
    4. Transparency and right-to-know procedures
    5. Accountability and Sarbox anti-corruption controls and systems for both public and private-sector organizations

    The subject areas above are intertwined with developing technologies and illuminated by all too frequent abuses and scandals. In an era of information overload, it is difficult even for professionals to remain current, at least in a systematic way.

    It would be possible to establish a training and certification program in data protection and Sarbox controls that could be implemented over a two day period at a local university in each of the major metros. The program could be developed in cooperation with experts in the field, such as Privacy International.

    In order to keep a certification current, individuals would need to spend one or two days per year in refresher sessions. Having staff from government agencies become certified could build confidence and reduce the likelihood of conflicts and misunderstandings.

    Employees from private organizations that collect and store confidential information would gain useful information on how to protect information, respond to breaches and provide appropriate notifications. These capabilities will make those private sector organizations more competitive and hopefully more profitable too, while supporting public policy goals.

    On the question raised in the videos of how IT companies may respond to requests by governments around the globe to release confidential information, I’d recommend looking into – that engages in collaborative approaches to privacy/free speech protection for ICT companies facing government pressure.


  • 8. Anthony Mitchell  |  May 31, 2009 at 11:33 am

    For a country that continues to experience instability and uncertainty on a national level, it will be easy for corporate buyers and global consumers to recognize a jujitsu, a decisive tendency by export-oriented companies to ensure that data and privacy are protected and that good governance becomes an industry trademark through soft individual and organizational certification that develops gradually and incorporates participants from government, academia and civil society.

    This is a narrative that solves the quandary that marketers of products and services from Pakistan have struggled with for many years. It is a narrative that competing IT destinations can NOT claim for themselves. As the Satyam/PwC scandal demonstrates, competing destinations’ showcases of IT security and good governance often turn out to be exactly the opposite.

    The message/rebranding can be pushed through no-cost cooperative SEM efforts, whereby popular Google search terms produce top-10 results that include a listing with a site description such as ‘the most certified data-protection and good-governance IT suppliers anywhere: PK’ or a similar message below the website title in search results.

  • 9. Jehan  |  June 1, 2009 at 10:55 am

    @Shahrukh @Shahzad … thanks. I enjoyed interviewing these guys. They are great.

    @Anthony thanks for the useful suggestions. We are working on a two year strategy and some of what you have proposed, will indeed be included as part of the strategy. What would we do without you? 🙂 We appreciate your continued involvement in the Pakistan IT sector. Your insight helps us to look at things from a different angle.


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