1. What you mean by digital privacy?
Like in everyday life, where we keep our data private, meaning that we will not disclose our bank account number or our address to everyone we meet in the streets, the same is also valid to our digital life, our life online, in the strange world of bits and bytes, where it seems that we tend to forget essential rules about protecting ourselves from all the digital privacy invasions that lurk behind the flashy neon’s of that digital world.
The main problem about digital privacy is the simple fact that we no longer control who has access to our data, which poses an immense ocean of doubts, questions and issues, for which there is no easy answers. In the days before the Internet paths and roads, we tended our privacy in a much easier way, like Bradley (2009) noted, “In the nineteenth century, the right to privacy was thought of as a special case of a more general human right to be “let alone” and today we might say that privacy is “the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs”. In the global village of social networking and 24/7 connectivity, this is becoming a little difficult to define.” In those pristine days, privacy was simply protecting our secrets from eager evil eyes or simply screening our life from that snooping next door neighbor, I always remember Gladys and Abner Kravitz from that old TV series of the 60’s “Bewitched”. That couple stayed engraved on my mind has the archetypical privacy snatchers.
In those days, protected by the false sense of protection, provided by laws, we all regarded privacy like something that only needed a circumspect attitude and good curtains in the windows. The “googlerized” world of the 21st century, brought a sort of an earthquake to privacy, shaking all the pillars of that ill build privacy palace, worse, privacy issues extended to places and ways that in considered sanctuaries and other pretense safe places, namely our house, the school of our children or our local hospital.
If we care to take a few moments to think about this question, we will surely be frighten by the quite incredible number of places where someone less interested in abiding by the law can in fact steal information about us, let us see, from the much obvious home PC or laptop, to the tablet or cell phone, to the data base of our bank, supermarket, police record, health department or other government institution, it is really freaky, thinking how much scattered our personal information is.
Not only that, but also the ways and equipments that those chaps who make a living out of stealing information use to achieve their goals, and yes we are speaking of you own iphone, laptop or even the ultimate ipad model, the potential ways turn this obscure paths in a intricate maze from which not even a modern GPS armed Theseus would escaped the mighty cyber pirate Minotaur. Do you remember Orwell’s “Big Brother is watching you”, fact well observed by Solove (2004) “The specter of Big Brother has haunted computerization from the beginning,” computer science professor Abbe Mowshowitz observes.”
Well Mac, look again, in fact it is no longer only the big brother, it is the sister, the aunt, the granny and even the cousin. In today digital reality, everyone is spying on everyone, from governments to industry, to individuals, everyone with their own just, at least from their point of view, and legal or not so legal excuses.
Ok, but what the heck is the digital privacy? There is no easy answer to that but let us just say that is a two way road, that involves the protection of our personal information in its multiple aspects, image, data, Internet usage, consumer habits you name it, that protection must be assured by ourselves and every institution in which we trusted that information, be it a government and its multiple departments an ISP, the local supermarket or that online social network or online store, in plain words digital privacy is the way by which we and all the entities we trust our personal information tend and protect that information, not allowing any misuse of that information in any kind of way. For instance Gonzales (2012) defines digital privacy as it follows “The concept of digital privacy can best be described as the protection of the information of private citizens who use digital mediums.”
Our digital privacy is much about our concern of how the personal data of each one of us is used as it is about how the world uses our data and also how we use other people information or work. The last issue raises the question of authoring, licenses and rights. Digital privacy also raises many concerns about data protection and individual rights and liberties, since so much disperse information escapes the control of the individual citizen, like Chaum (1992) observed, “The growing amounts of information that different organizations collect about a person can be linked because all of them use the same key in the U.S. the social security number to identify the individual in question.”
A simple number permits the access to all our life, if one also uses the private stuff that almost every one posts on the social networks, a well or a bad intentioned person can make our profile in a couple of hours, in an increasingly connected world, this poses many serious questions about our digital privacy. So next time you post a photo or your new born baby, think again, and try to grasp the enormity of your action, try to think about privacy.
Daniel J. Solove. 2004. The Digital Person. http://docs.law.gwu.edu/facweb/dsolove/Digital-Person/text.htm [retrieved from the internet in 17-11-2012].
David Bradley. 2009. Digital Privacy Concerns. http://www.sciencebase.com/science-blog/digital-privacy-concerns.html. 17-11-2012. [retrieved from the internet in 17-11-2012].
David Chaum. 1992. Achieving Electronic Privacy http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/dts/pm/Papers/chaum-sciam.html. [retrieved from the internet in 17-11-2012].
S. Gonzales. 2012. What Is Digital Privacy?. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-digital-privacy.htm. [retrieved from the internet in 17-11-2012].