The emergence and widespread use of the new technology of computers and internet has resulted in both positive and negative effects for the individual consumer of this new technology. In this context, it is important to ask the following questions: Whether the individual privacy has been violated by the use of the computers and internet? What are the ethical issues involved in this phenomena? What measures are taken by the government to curtail the intention of the individuals and agencies to violate other’s privacy?
What is the role of the international organisations in protecting the information privacy? This shows that the present task includes various complex aspects involving the problems related to information security. This essay begins with providing introduction to the topic, and then it will deal with the issues such as privacy issues, legal aspects of information, relationship between information and human rights, the emergence of data protection policies including the directives issued by the EU and the USA.
The number of publications and debates, as showed by the exhaustive bibliography presented at the end of this essay, indicate the importance that this topic has received in the recent years. In this sense, it is important to analyse the various aspects related to information security mentioned above. This essay will emphasise – both legally and morally speaking – the fact that it is important to protect the information security pertaining to the individuals and the nations.
The main purpose of this essay is to present the facts and provide their analysis in order to stress the need for action against the violation of information privacy. Privacy issues The increasing role of the media, including television, newspapers, Internet, has attracted the attention of the scholars to the need for the in depth study of the privacy issues as the individuals have started complaining that their privacy has been violated due to the study, analysis and publications of their personal behaviour in the society.
Although recently privacy issues have gained greater complexity, the scholars, as early as 19th century, discussed the issues pertaining to the right of the privacy of the individual. Initially, the government authorities protected the property rights of the individuals as the government believed that it is important protect the property rights of the individuals. However, later the principles of property rights were also applied in the case of the privacy as it was perceived that every individual possessed the right to think, act, and speak.
However, during 19th century there were several cases which pertained to the conflict between the individuals and the journalists who wrote the gossip-like stories pertaining to the famous personalities. These writings, when challenged in the court of law, were punished because there was intrusion of the individual’s privacy. This shows that even during the 19th century the privacy issues were discussed in great length, and the government attempted to protect the privacy of the individuals.
The legislations of the governments prohibited the publications which affected the individual’s privacy. However, in the modern age, the privacy issues have become further complicated, in spite of the existence of appropriate legislations to protect the privacy of the individuals, due to the emergence of the new technologies such as internet and electronic revolution.
Privacy, which includes the various categories such as privacy of person, privacy of personal behaviour, privacy of personal communications, and privacy of personal data, has been considered as something which should be guarded against attempts to violate the right to privacy. Among these, the most important are the personal communication privacy and the data privacy or information privacy because the individuals believe their interactions with other individuals and institutions should not be monitored by the government or non government agencies.
The violation of the privacy of the individuals will have different kinds of effects, including psychological, social, economic, and political, on the overall personality of the individual as any kind of surveillance, including data surveillance, mass surveillance, physical surveillance, and electronic surveillance, limits the activities of the people since they cannot act and think freely. This is against the democratic principles that have been incorporated in the constitution of the democratic countries of the world.
Recently, information privacy and data privacy have emerged as the significant terms which are related to each other. Generally, privacy is violated due to the conflict between the personal rights and interest of the individuals and the personal rights of the community and government. Hence, there is a need to establish balance between the two, and this balance can be achieved by defining and following the general principles pertaining to the relationship between the personal interest and the community interest.
Those who violate the principles protecting the individual privacy should be awarded with severe punishments so that they would not, in the future, repeat the crime of disturbing the information and data privacy of other individuals. The privacy of the individual is affected through the actions such as: publishing private information, eavesdrop communication, and collecting the analysing the personal data.
During the pre computer age an attempt was made to protect the privacy of the individuals through the legislations and actions such as: the fourth amendment 1791 of the American constitution, universal declaration of human rights 1948, international covenant on civil and political rights. In the age of computers the European countries have tried to protect the privacy through the actions and proposals such as: convention on data protection, 1981 and European Union (EU) data directive, 1995. This shows that many European countries and the developed countries such as the USA have tried to protect the privacy of the individuals.
The large number of conferences, conventions and legislations prove that the scholars and the authorities have realized the need to protect the individual privacy. In spite of the above attempts to protect the privacy of the individuals in the different countries, the scholars have noticed the prevalence of a few practical problems which hinder the sincere attempts to safeguard the interest of the consumers who feed their personal data to the institutions as the consumers are under the impression that these data would remain confidential which, however, is not the case always.
One can also notice the differences in the methods employed by the European countries and the USA which has resulted in the confusion in the mind of the individuals pertaining to their right to privacy. Hence, it is important to coordinate the methods of handling the problems of privacy in these different countries. The individuals, although are informed pertaining to the ‘privacy policies’ of the companies, in reality, the consumers are not able to comprehend the complex privacy policies.
This would imply that there is a need for providing simplified version of the attitude of the companies towards the data so that the individuals could place their trust on the companies while providing their personal information. It is found that the information provided by the consumers are used by the data collection companies for their own financial benefit which may directly or indirectly affect the individual privacy. In many cases, the consumers are not even aware of the fact that their data are being misused by the companies.
This leads to the breach of trust on the part of the data collectors. The consumer surveys have repeatedly proved that the consumers are not satisfied with the attitude of the companies towards their privacy. This has created fear among the consumers while using the internet particularly for financial transactions. Due to the global nature of the internet and opportunity to maintain anonymity of people, there has been increase in the internet based crimes which has affected the privacy of the individuals.
This shows that the legislations, in the EU and USA have not succeeded in preventing the privacy violation of the consumers. However, the companies have argued that, in the UK scenario, they have not used individual information given the customers as it is illegal to sell the information of the individual without prior permission. The ‘loyalty cards’, voluntarily signed by the individual customers, comprises valuable information provided by the customers which however are not passed to others as this information is used to understand the buying habits of the consumers in a particular locality.
The companies collect the information, voluntarily given by the customers, to increase their sales, and in the process they take care not to disclose the personal information provided by the customers. The customers, in fact, are given the option not to disclose their personal information to the third party so that their data privacy could be protected. However, although this argument looks perfect in theory, in practice one cannot always accept that the companies do not disclose the personal information pertaining to their customers.
This is because there is no tested mechanism to comprehend the privacy policies of the companies as the employees of the companies might sell the information of the customers. Hence, the customers tend to lose their privacy when they provide information to the companies as the individuals do not possess the control over the data furnished by them. The above discussion has brought to light the probable negative implications of the modern technology. This has compelled the scholars to ask the question: Since new technology has failed to protect the privacy of the individual, should we not discard such technology?
However, it is not advisable to discard the technology in order to protect the individual privacy. It has been rightly argued by one scholar that: “…civil liberties can best be protected by employing value sensitive technology development strategies in conjunction with policy implementations, not by opposing technological developments or seeking to control the use of particular technologies or techniques after the fact through law alone” It is, in fact, important to devise policy measures to overcome the problems pertaining to individual privacy.
The scholars, by discussing various aspects of violation of the individual privacy, have comprehended the fact that it is necessary to protect the privacy of the individuals. Although much legislation has been implemented one cannot expect that legislations will act as the magic force in preventing the crimes against privacy of the individuals. Hence, the governments, of both the USA and the EU, need to introduce flexible policies in order to provide clarity element to their policies.