Section One - Introduction to privacy
A story about ordering a pizza (18 minutes)
Getting a taste for things
Hungry for information? Let's start with a short video (2 minutes) on privacy and ordering a pizza.
Okay, that was quite dystopian, right? Not really a world you want to live in. And we will see even more dystopian scenarios further in this crash course. That is why it is really important to think about privacy in relation to (digital) technology.
We have another video (3 minutes) to really convince you and give you an idea on the concept of privacy.
So, let's look at some theories.
Most important: privacy is a fundamental right. It is essential to autonomy and the protection of human dignity, serving as the foundation upon which many other human rights are built.
- Privacy enables us to create barriers and manage boundaries to protect ourselves from unwarranted interference in our lives, which allows us to negotiate who we are and how we want to interact with the world around us.
- Privacy helps us establish boundaries to limit who has access to our bodies, places and things, as well as our communications and our information.
- The rules that protect privacy give us the ability to assert our rights in the face of significant power imbalances. As a result, privacy is an essential way we seek to protect ourselves and society against arbitrary and unjustified use of power, by reducing what can be known about us and done to us, while protecting us from others who may wish to exert control.
Privacy is essential to who we are as human beings. We make decisions about it every single day. It gives us a space to be ourselves without judgement, allows us to think freely without discrimination, and is an important element of giving us control over who knows what about us.
So, if you still think that privacy is overrated we kindly ask you to think again.
Privacy is more than data protection
Privacy is about relational privacy, about territorial privacy, physical privacy AND informational privacy. This means privacy is much more than data protection. Privacy is socially agreed upon respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. Data protection is a system of data processing practices of personally identifiable or identifying data for the protection of privacy.
We will talk about data – protection in section 2.
Privacy is a right that is often part of national constitutions and international law on human rights. It is possible to invade someone's privacy without violating data protection laws.
Quick question: Can you think of a way to invade someones privacy but not violate any data protection laws?
Quick answer: You can, for example, use non-digital technology, like good old fashioned binoculars, to spy on your neighbour. You are invading privacy but you are not violating data protection laws.
Privacy sometimes may be breached within the boundaries of the law. For example, by governments. In that case, three questions are very important:
- Proportionality: is the goal in proportion to the infringement?
- Subsidiarity: Is this the best way to achieve it? Or are there other ways?
- Effectiveness: do I achieve what I want to achieve by the infringement?
If you assess the impact of a (digital) technology from a privacy perspective it is really important to keep the questions above in mind. In the analysis of the Corona Contact App (an example on the TICT) we did just that.
Privacy is contextual
Finally, it is important to understand that privacy is contextual.
For example: If you like your privacy, the airport looks like hell on earth. Check it out: you have to identify yourself to different people; customs officials screen your bags; at some airports, your irises can be scanned and just about every airport gets your whole body through a scanner. There are few places where you have to reveal so much intimate information in a short time. Yet we don’t fly less because of it. From research it appears that the majority of travellers consider that their privacy is “fully” respected.
It is all about context.
Contextual privacy was made famous by philosopher Helen Nissenbaum. She explained that when people are saying that they think that their privacy is fully respected when it is not, that is not a result of not caring about privacy. It is because they assess their own privacy at the airport differently than at the baker's. We are okay with the customs officer inspecting the contents of our bag without asking, while we would slap a complete stranger that does that on the train or at the baker's.
Her theory of privacy as contextual integrity provides tools to assess the behaviour of data collectors such as Google and the National Security Agency. It explains why we have problems with a university checking our data while at the same time we use WhatsApp. Contextual privacy is a sophisticated intellectual tool that can help answer the question of why we perceive one context as very threatening to our privacy and another not at all.
This is a 10 minute excercise. Open this PowerPoint Template (CC3_Exercise.pptx), answer the question on slide one. Next, fill out slide two using your own words and the insights in privacy you have gained in this section.
Here you can find a potential answer (CC3_Exercise_Answered.pptx).
Take aways from section one:
- Privacy is a fundamental human right;
- Privacy is more than information privacy;
- Protect your privacy can be something other than protecting your data;
- Privacy infringement is only allowed under certain conditions;
- Privacy is contextual.