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Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to stop information about themselves from becoming known to people other than those they choose to give the information to. Privacy is sometimes related to anonymity although it is often most highly valued by people who are publicly known. Privacy can be seen as an aspect of security—one in which trade-offs between the interests of one group and another can become particularly clear.
The right against unsanctioned intrusion of privacy by the government, corporations or individuals is part of many countries' laws, and in some cases, constitutions (see privacy laws). Almost all countries have laws which in some way limit privacy, for example taxation normally requires passing on information about earnings. In some countries individual privacy may conflict with freedom of speech laws and some laws may require public disclosure of information which would be considered private in other countries and cultures.
Privacy may be voluntarily sacrificed, normally in exchange for perceived benefits, but often with little benefit and very often with specific dangers and losses. An example of voluntary sacrifice is entering a competition; a person gives personal details (often for advertising purposes), so they have a chance of winning a prize. Another example is where information voluntarily shared is later stolen or misused such as in identity theft.
 Privacy and security trade offs
Privacy is one of the areas of security with trade-offs. For the collection of taxes it is in the interests of government if your earnings and income are well known. On the other hand, that same information may be used to select you or your family as a good target for kidnapping or to identify the kidnapper so that they cannot plan any kidnappings. In these narrow terms, one group's interest is to keep the information private whilst the other group's interest is to obtain that information. In most countries this risk is reduced, but not eliminated, by limiting the number of people with access to taxation information. On the other hand, in some countries, mostly places with a low risk of kidnapping such as Finland, such information is directly accesible to anyone who wishes it. Privacy can also have free speech ramifications. In some countries privacy has been used as a tool to supress free speech. Free speech and privacy is another area with trade-offs. In various cases the US Supreme Court has ruled that the first amendment trumps privacy. In Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001) Docket Number: 99-1687, US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that someone cannot be held liable in court for publishing or broadcasting intercepted contents of telephone calls or other electronic communications. The protection extends even when the publisher or broadcaster knows that someone else illegally intercepted the communication to obtain the information, as long as that information is of public concern.
Census data is another area where such trade-offs become apparent. Accurate data is useful for planning future services (whether commercial or public sector), on the other hand, almost all censuses are released only in a way which does not allow identification of specific individuals. Often this is done by randomly altering the data and directly reducing its accuracy.
On the other hand sometimes false trade-offs are made. Identity card systems which clearly reduce privacy, are often sold as a method of increasing security. Strong arguments have been made by security experts such as Bruce Schneier, however, that these systems in fact reduce security and are a form of "security theatre".
 Reasons for maintaining privacy
One may wish to maintain privacy by withholding information from others because of stigma (as in the case of some "closeted" homosexuals), or for protection from the law (as when criminals hide information to prevent others from catching them). Privacy may include preserving modesty and preventing embarrassment by keeping others away while naked, using a toilet, or having sex.
Often, information (such as bank account numbers or, in the USA, the Social Security Number) may be used against the owner of the information, for example to commit fraud. By maintaining privacy, information owners hope to avoid this fraud or limit effects from it.
 Reasons for not maintaining privacy
It has been reasoned that privacy discourages information sharing between individuals which in turn can lead to mistrust and intolerance amongst people and perpetuate false information. If information can be shared widely then facts can generally be verified through many different sources and there are less chances of inaccuracies. It has also been reasoned that Privacy can perpetuate stigma and intolerance. The reasoning behind this is that restrictions on information about people can inhibit and discourage collection and finding of data that is required for an accurate analysis and discussion on the causes and root of the stigma and intolerance. Philosophers often ask how can people learn to accept each other if they cannot know about each other? Issues have also been raised that privacy can encourage criminal activity as it makes it easier for criminals to hide their unlawful activities.
 Types of privacy
 Political privacy
- Main article: Political privacy
People may wish to keep their political viewpoints secret for a variety of reasons - political groupings may be able to commit violence either when successful (using the powers of the state) or when defeated (using their own militias for example). This may be used to punish those who disagree with them. Many people have been tortured or killed for their political views by, for example, dictators, terrorist groups, and often forces linked to democratically elected politicians. The secret ballot, which is common in democratic elections worldwide, is designed to maintain political privacy to limit any discrimination against people who did not vote for the office-holder and to avoid revenge attacks by those who were not elected.
Outing of individuals can be done for several political reasons; either as a negative campaigning tactic designed to lower the outed person's reputation, or by others of a similar sexual orientation who seek openness over privacy.
 Medical privacy
- Main article: Medical privacy
Information concerning a person's health is kept confidential to the patient. In most countries, the patient must grant access before anyone other than the staff of medical institutions may view the information. The reasons for keeping medical information private may include possible discrimination against people with a certain medical condition. However, it may be illegal to fail to disclose medical information in certain cases (for example, in the United Kingdom in 2001, Stephen Kelly was found guilty of "culpable and reckless" conduct for failing to tell his girlfriend he was HIV-positive before having unprotected sex with her Template:Ref). Also see remarks on the Roe v Wade abortion decision below.
 Privacy from corporations
Many companies exist which attempt to obtain as much information about customers as possible, through loyalty cards and other kind of customer schemes. This data is immensely valued by other companies, which may pay large amounts of money for access to this information, for marketing purposes (often telemarketing). A huge public backlash against telemarketers led to the introduction of the National Do Not Call Registry in the United States, and similar systems in other countries.
With the increasing amount of e-mail spam being sent, often advertising products for sale, solutions to prevent the loss of privacy (as the spammers use social engineering and other similar practices to keep an up-to-date list of email addresses) have been developed. See e-mail spam for more information.
Laws regulating the use of personal information by companies have diverged significantly between Europe and America with strong regulation in Europe and requirements for explicit permission before personal information can be reused being standard in the European Union whilst this area is largely unregulated in the USA.
 Privacy from government interference
As a human right, privacy primarily relates to government actions not private actions. Human rights guarantees do not impose broad obligations on governments to protect individuals against possible invasions of their privacy by other individuals. However Constitutional and international guarantees require that restrictions on freedom of expression, even in the interests of privacy, must meet a very high standard of legality and necessity. Governments in many countries are given powers to breach privacy. This is often due to criminal investigations, where police are permitted to seize private property from a suspect's house. Telephone tapping, where all information being transmitted over a phone line is secretly monitored, is often permissible for Law Enforcement Agencies although it sometimes requires permission from a court. This can then be used as evidence in trials where it is used to secure convictions against criminals. However, in the past, numerous cases have been overturned in the United States because the wiretap was not legally allowed. Other ways to monitor people include closed-circuit television cameras, which are placed in public.
The desirability of the government monitoring communications, whether permitted by law or not, is a common debate. Organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation argue that the right to privacy is an inalienable human right and that it is up to the person whether they should have to disclose information. Other groups, including government agencies like the National Security Agency, maintain that the ability to monitor all communications aids in the prevention of criminal activity and terrorism.
 Effects of war upon privacy
During periods of war, identity documents and similar artifacts have been introduced to establish the identity of the holder. These were used for security purposes — individuals who did not carry the required documents were assumed to be spies and could be interrogated. In World War I identity cards were introduced in the United Kingdom, but in 1919 compulsion to carry them was removed. They were reintroduced in World War II, but after the successful prosecution of Clarence Henry Willcock for refusing to present his card to the police, the law was repealed in 1952. In this case, Lord Chief Justice Lord Goddard commented that identity cards "tend to make people resentful of the acts of the police".
Rights of the individual, including habeas corpus, often only apply in periods of peacetime. During the American Civil War in the United States, and during World War II in the United Kingdom, habeas corpus was suspended.
It is the opinion of some that the September 11, 2001 attacks and the "War on Terrorism" declared by the United States government, have "restricted" the right to privacy. Proponents of this belief cite the introduction of bills such as the Patriot Act, and new government organisations such as the United States Department of Homeland Security, and the controversial, unfunded Information Awareness Office.
The Labour government in the U.K. introduced a bill requiring all citizens to carry a British national identity card. It is extremely likely that Labour will introduce ID cards, having been returned to power after the general election of 2005.
As of 2005, the right to privacy remains an important point of political debate in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries.
 Arguments for government monitoring
- Increased crime detection - due to the placement of CCTV cameras, the success rate of conviction is increased as criminals are more likely to be convicted due to the increased ability to prove a suspect committed an offence.
- Prevention of terrorism - terrorist activities need coordination and this is often done using electronic equipment. If communications between devices can be monitored, the activities of terrorists can be prevented before any terrorist attacks are carried out, and their networks can be disclosed by network analysis and traffic analysis.
 Arguments against government monitoring
- Surveillance infringes on civil liberties - there is a lack of anonymity if facial recognition systems can be used, for example, to identify protestors in a demonstration.
- CCTV cameras displace crime, rather than eliminate it - criminals move to areas where CCTV is not in place.
- Monitoring can be used in committing crime, for example Police officers have been caught using cameras to invade the personal privacy of women walking through airports.
- Gathering data about many people in one place (the monitoring center) provides a valuable source of data for undesirable activities
- The same technology used for disclosing networks of terrorists and criminals can be used by repressive regimes for finding dissidents, and allows easy blacklisting or prosecuting of people for their guilt by association (see the Red Scare for a set of historical examples). Its presence itself can provide a considerable chilling effect for legitimate political dissent. This effect is amplified by subpoenability of the surveillance data, providing material for SLAPPs.
 Privacy laws
- Main article: Civil liberties
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in article 12, states:
- 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.
Most countries have laws protecting privacy. In some countries this is part of their constitution, such as France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. If the privacy of an individual is breached, the individual may bring a lawsuit asking for monetary damages. However, in the United Kingdom, recent cases involving celebrities such as David Beckham, however, have resulted in defeat as the information has been determined in the courts to be in the public interestTemplate:Ref.
In various civil cases, the Supreme Court of the United States has found that the Constitution contains "penumbras" that implicitly grant a right to privacy against government intrusion; such cases include Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) (which allowed parents/guardians to educate their children), Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) (which explicitly recognised the right to privacy), Roe v. Wade (1973) (which prevented states from legislating against abortion), and Lawrence v. Texas (2003) (which prevented states from legislating against sodomy). On the other hand, the Supreme Court, in California v. Greenwood (1988), decided that trash does not carry a privacy expectation. The penumbral privacy right has also not been found to apply to government intrusion into individuals' financial data as it applies to the income tax, their residency data as it applies to the Census, or age data as once applied to conscription and now applies to registration for the non-existent draft.
As the U.S. constitution does not explicitly grant a right to privacy, its application by the Court to privacy cases seems quite arbitrary and the right to privacy is a hotly debated issue — strict constructionists argue that there is no such right and civil libertarians argue that the right invalidates many types of surveillance, such as CCTV cameras and wiretaps.
Most states in the U.S. grant a right to privacy and recognise four torts:
- Intrusion upon seclusion or solitude, or into private affairs;
- Public disclosure of embarrassing private facts;
- Publicity which places a person in a false light in the public eye; and
- Appropriation of name or likeness.
Organisations such as Privacy International, a London-based non-governmental organisation formed in 1990, exist as a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations. On the flip side organizations such as ARTICLE 19 a UK based non-governmental organization exist as a watchdog on governments using privacy as a tool for censorship and restrictions on free speech.
 See also
- Mass surveillance
- Data retention
- Civil liberties
- Data privacy
- Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
- RFID (radio frequency identification)
- The Transparent Society, a non-fiction book by David Brin, foreseeing an erosion of the right to privacy in the future.
- Digital Fortress, a novel by Dan Brown, about governmental powers to monitor its citizens' communications.
- Template:Note Landmark Aids case begins in Scotland, from BBC News (retrieved 26 April, 2005).
- Template:Note Does Beckham judgement change rules?, from BBC News (retrieved 27 April, 2005).
 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
- K. A. Taipale, "Technology, Security and Privacy: The Fear of Frankenstein, the Mythology of Privacy, and the Lessons of King Ludd," 7 Yale J. L. & Tech. 123 ; 9 Intl. J. Comm. L. & Pol'y 8 (Dec. 2004) (arguing for incorporating privacy protecting features in the construction of information systems through value sensitve design).
 External links
 World Wide Web links
- Electronic Frontier Foundation digital rights NGO
- Electronic Privacy Information Center a public interest research center
- Privacy International UK-based International privacy NGO
- Privacy Spot privacy law blog
- "The Right to Privacy" (Warren and Brandeis) the seminal law review article for U.S. privacy law
- OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy describe principles behind many contemporary privacy laws
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry
- European Privacy Protection for Wikipedia Users on the blog of Jean-Baptiste Soufron
 Freenet links
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- localhost is assumed as the base for the freesite