Why is Data Privacy important?
January 28 is Data Privacy Day which is “an international effort to create awareness about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust”.
Many organizations collect people’s data for various reasons. The digital space has made it easy to collect people’s data. Many people are unaware of and uninformed about how their personal information is collected, processed, used, or shared in our digital society.
All over the world today, data privacy is a huge public concern of the digital age, in part because data breaches continue exposing the personal data of millions of people. These data breaches have serious impacts on affected individuals and the organizations concerned. Whiles the individuals can suffer identity theft or blackmail, the affected companies risk financial costs along with damage to the public, investor, and customer trust.
Data is an incredibly important asset. Data collection and sharing can be a big business in today’s digital economy. But for organizations to safely and successfully take advantage of the data they are collecting; they need to have safeguards in place to ensure that the data collected are appropriately protected from unauthorized access and misuse. As organizations collect growing amounts of data about people, many people have begun to see the potential downsides to this data collection.
Daniel J. Solove, a data privacy expert has identified a few reasons why privacy is very important. The following are the importance identified by Daniel:
Limit on Power
Privacy is a limit on government power, as well as the power of private sector companies. The more someone knows about us, the more power they can have over us. Personal data is used to make very important decisions in our lives. It can be used to affect our reputations; and it can be used to influence our decisions and shape our behavior. It can also be used as a tool to exercise control over us. And in the wrong hands, it can be used to cause us great harm.
Respect for Individuals
Privacy is about respecting individuals. If a person has a reasonable desire to keep something private, it is disrespectful to ignore that person’s wishes without a compelling reason to do so. Sometimes people’s desires for privacy are just brushed aside because of a view that the harm in doing so is trivial. Even if this does not cause major injury, it demonstrates a lack of respect for that person. In essence, it is saying: “I care about my interests, but I don’t care about yours.”
Privacy enables people to manage their reputations. How we are judged by others affects our opportunities, friendships, and overall well-being. Protecting reputation depends on protecting against not only falsehoods but also certain truths. Knowing private details about people’s lives does not necessarily lead to more accurate judgment about people. People judge badly, they judge in haste, they judge out of context, they judge without hearing the whole story, and they judge with hypocrisy. Privacy helps people protect themselves from these troublesome judgments.
Maintaining Appropriate Social Boundaries
People establish boundaries with others in society. These boundaries are both physical and informational. We need places of solitude to retreat to, places where we are free of the gaze of others in order to relax and feel at ease. We also establish informational boundaries, and we have an elaborate set of these boundaries for the many different relationships we have. Privacy helps people manage these boundaries. Breaches of these boundaries can create awkward social situations and damage our relationships. Most people do not want everybody to know everything about them – hence the phrase “none of your business.”
In relationships, whether personal, professional, governmental, or commercial, we depend upon trusting the other party. Breaches of confidentiality are breaches of that trust. In professional relationships such as our relationships with doctors and lawyers, this trust is key to maintaining candor in the relationship. Likewise, we trust other people we interact with as well as the companies we do business with. When trust is breached in one relationship, that could make us more reluctant to trust in other relationships.
Control Over One’s Life
Indeed, personal data affects nearly everything on the Internet. Without having knowledge of what data is being used, how it is being used, the ability to correct and amend it, we are virtually helpless in today’s world. We are helpless without the ability to have a say in how our data are used or the ability to object and have legitimate grievances be heard when data uses can harm us. One of the hallmarks of freedom is having autonomy and control over our lives, and we cannot have that if so many important decisions about us are being made in secret without our awareness or participation.
Freedom of Social and Political Activities
Privacy helps protect our ability to associate with other people and engage in political activity. A key component of freedom of political association is the ability to do so with privacy if one chooses. We protect privacy at the ballot because of the concern that failing to do so would chill people’s voting their true conscience.
Author: Emmanuel K. Gadasu, (Data Protection Officer, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)
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