Privacy: that’s my right to Facebook right?


Some say that Privacy is a right that cannot be quantified in words. Some also say that privacy is one of those rights that just exists and is intertwined with freedom. Some also say that privacy is dead.  I say, who are these people and what gives them the right to kill my privacy… I digress, the real question is “So what is Privacy”? Is it something tangeable that means something in the real world or is Privacy something that can only be defined in law and is buried away in a cookie on my laptop?

To help give some insight into this question, let us go back in time to the period when “human rights” were first being drafted as something that legally existed. Many of the rights were a reaction to the atrocities of the Second World War in an effort to prevent any such actions being taken again. The key ones of note were the right to Freedom of Expression and the Right to Privacy and a Family Life. Both essentially protect your right to be who you want to be and live your life in the way that you want to. Where does privacy come in to play here? Would it be that you can be who you want to be or live how you want to without interference from the state? If so, I would not call that privacy as it isn’t state that tells the mums in the playground that the milkman has called in 5 times this week and only delivered one bottle of milk…

But then what is worth more to you as a citizen? To be free from governmental spying or to be free from neighbourly spying? What has more impact on your life and feels like a true invasion of your privacy and freedoms? Is there a difference? Do you feel a cold chill like someone has walked over your grave each time you walk past a CCTV camera?

In the 60 years or so that have passed since then has seen in the rise of Information Technology and for most countries (including the UK) the rise of the idea of Data Protection. So is Data Protection a right to privacy? Well, if you ask a lawyer they will tell you most certainly not as Data Protection is far more “narrow” than a generic right to privacy. (And that “privacy” as a term seems to have been hi-jacked by the US so us Europeans have taken an instant disliking to it). 

So we say again, what is privacy? Or rather, what is Privacy in the 21st Century? Is it some complicated legislation that requires you to consent to text files on your computer or is it something more? Something that believes that allowing a person in India to see your personal information is a breach of said privacy. Or monitoring of areas that you like to call your own as invasions of privacy? Are these questions that can be answered?

Personally, (and I do fully accept that this is most likely oversimplifying the issue) the legal definition of privacy in the modern world seems worlds apart from the every day practical use and cherished notion of privacy. The average Joe on the street doesn’t see his privacy infringed because “data sub-processing has been outsourced to china” and the correct form hasn’t been submitted. Instead he sees his privacy infringed when he has to answer for his movements or is watched when he is in his private areas (be that the loo or his den) or even when neighbours delve into areas that ought not to be delved into.

I await the day when ‘privacy’ and ‘data protection’ become more closely intertwined and where  just the ‘processing’ of any personal data if it infringes on that persons privacy is a legal reason not to have that information in the first place. 

 As usual I don’t have the answers as I am just a man, I only offer thoughts for consideration. There are many roads to Amarillo after all, and many things go through the mind on the way.