An attempt to demystify the concept of Privacy
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.
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