The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Privacy is the ability of a person to control the availability of information about and exposure of him- or herself. It is related to being able to function in society anonymously (including pseudonymous or blind credential identification).

According to Eric Hughes , "Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world."[1]

Types of privacy giving rise to special concerns:

Some ways in which privacy is lost include the following:

  • Waiver of privacy right included in the terms of a contract.
  • Theft of confidential information, e.g. by computer cracking .
  • Statutory or regulatory orders to provide private material (eg, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in the UK)
  • Compulsory National identity cards, especially when linked to central government databases
  • Statutory or regulatory intrusion on private acts (assorted wiretapping provisions just about everywhere -- most do not include notice which can be opposed in a court)
  • Involuntary "outing", e.g. of homosexuals, often by others of the same political category who seek openness over privacy, or opponents intent on shaming them.

Some methods which have been used to defend privacy include the following:

  • Non-transparent packages;
  • Encryption of communications and other information;
  • De jure establishment of privacy rights as an entitlement;
  • sue, shun or harm those guilty of outing;
  • toilets, showers and changing rooms separated by sex and/or with separate cubicles; partitions between urinals; possibility to lock the door;
  • separate rooms for people in their house, possibility to lock the door, agreement to knock before entering (with or without waiting for a reply).

Privacy in the United States

The terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001 and the commencement of the "War on Terror" which followed has raised concern for privacy in the United States. Much of this debate has centered on the passage of the Patriot Act and the creation of the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Information Awareness Office and its program of Total Information Awareness (later changed to Terrorist Information Awareness) and the ways these laws and agencies interact with the data revolution of the 1990s.

See also

Further reading

  • Dennis Bailey, Open Society Paradox: Why The Twenty-first Century Calls For More Openness--not Less, Brasseys Inc (November, 2004), hardcover, 224 pages, ISBN 1574889168
  • Robert O Harrow, No Place To Hide: Behind The Scenes Of Our Emerging Surveillance Society, Free Press or Simon and Schuster (January, 2005), hardcover, 304 pages, ISBN 0743254805

External links

Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:30:37
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