In 1890, Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis wrote a law review article on the right to privacy. In this article, the scholars wrote about how the right to privacy had long been recognized, but that it was necessary, from time to time, to define anew the exact nature and extent of such protection.
Indeed, “[p]olitical, social, and economic changes entail the recognition of new rights, and the common law, in its eternal youth, grows to meet the demands of society.” In its bare essence, the right to privacy is the “right to be let alone” as noted by Warren and Brandeis.
It is unlikely that Warren and Brandeis would have predicted the kind of world we live in today. Technology is everywhere. Technology is an integral part of our everyday lives. How we think about the world and, indeed, how we perceive it, is enabled (and filtered) through technology.
Watch Margarita Gonzalez and Shane Owens, both with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, talk with HIMSS TV about the need to reframe the security conversation from humans being the weakest link to supporting them with tools designed with users in mind.
While we are not cyborgs, we have adapted to life with technology and we are all users of technology. Technology is a part of who we are. Indeed, technology is always in the “on” position. The “off switch” is starting to become a thing of the past. We cannot divorce ourselves from technology.
And, yet, if technology is the infrastructure, then what is the fuel? The fuel is information. Information makes technology “go.” Information aggregation, association, dissemination and publication is ever-present. But, at least for now, we can choose what we wish to share with others. Indeed, perhaps the most fundamental element of the right to privacy nowadays is choice. Thus, a more accurate modern definition of the right to privacy could be articulated as the following: the right to privacy is the right to choose to be let alone. A corollary to this redefined right to privacy is as follows: honoring the right of an individual who chooses to be let alone.
In the day and age of the European Union General Data Protection Regulation, HIPAA, Gramm-Leech-Bliley Act, the Personal Data Protection Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and other laws and regulations, these two fundamental principles – choice and honor for an individual’s right to privacy – remain crystal clear.
We celebrate Data Privacy Day internationally on January 28. Whether you use technology for work, leisure, or school, I urge you to bear in mind these two fundamental principles. In so doing, you will respect your own privacy rights and that of others. Remember – share with care – not just on Data Privacy Day, but every day.
Privacy is a fundamental right and each individual has that right. It is something that should not be taken away – ever.
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