Privacy. Most people in the Western world want it, although it feels like we’re losing our right to a bit of peace and quiet.
Conceptually, privacy allows us to be left alone. In the EU, privacy is protected by the Human Rights Act of 1998. Article 8 “protects your right to respect for your private life, your family life, your home and your correspondence.” These tend to be the fundamental requirements for any society that considers itself to be democratic.
Article 12 adds to this:
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
👉 Privacy International argues that it “is a fundamental right, essential to autonomy and the protection of human dignity, serving as the foundation upon which many other human rights are built.” While privacy is a human right in the EU, the definition varies according to the region and its culture.
Over 100 countries have some form of privacy and data protection law, but some are more tolerant than others; privacy doesn’t always register as a major concern, whether because of a sense of collectivism, or due to a conscious effort by the ruling party. For example, China recently introduced mandatory face scans for new SIM card purchases, a measure which would be seen as draconian in many countries.
Traditionally, people look to the government when voicing privacy concerns. In the UK, everything from proposed ID cards to the EU itself have been subject to complaints – yet a more credible threat to privacy is arising from the online sphere. Ironically, though technology has more potential to protect privacy than ever before, it is instead used to surveil, with numerous organisations collecting as much information as possible.
Privacy is difficult to maintain in an age of smartphones and social media, where many have sacrificed it in favour of convenience. Take the average smartphone: it’s constantly pinging your location and heaps of extra info… but you do get an accurate map that will always show where you need to go. It’s a trade-off, and many have accepted the negatives that come with the positives.
The same goes for everything from Google searches to Amazon purchases. Technological advances do make life easier, but many also chip away at our personal life until there isn’t much left unexamined. Organisations will always want more information about their users, and their methods continue to grow more sophisticated, involving big data, or even loopholes and illegal means.
Privacy is a human right in much of the world for good reason. Respect for private life, family life, home, and correspondence is entirely reasonable, allowing people to live lives free from the threat of outside interference.