In the age of the internet, the questions about privacy started to emerge. But why privacy matters? Many are struggling to articulate and explain the answer. In this two-part blog post, we are exploring the reasons why privacy matters.
First, let’s see what is the official definition of privacy.
“Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals but share common themes. When something is private to a person, it usually means that something is inherently special or sensitive to them. The domain of privacy partially overlaps with security (confidentiality), which can include the concepts of appropriate use, as well as protection of information. Privacy may also take the form of bodily integrity.”
Now it is time to dive in the reasons why privacy is so important nowadays, probably more than ever.
Privacy allows people to maintain their reputations. How others judge us affects our daily lives — our opportunities, friendships, and overall well-being. Naturally, we cannot have complete control over our reputation, but we do deserve to have an ability to protect it from being tainted unfairly. Protecting reputation is not only about keeping it safe against lies but also some truths. Knowing private details about someone’s life does not necessarily lead to more accurate judgment about that person. People judge poorly, they judge in haste, they judge without hearing the whole story, they judge out of context, and they judge with hypocrisy. Privacy serves people to protect themselves from these damaging judgments.
When it comes to relationships — whether they are personal, professional, or any other type, we depend upon trusting the other party. Breaches of privacy are breaches of that trust. In professional relationships such as the relationships with lawyers or doctors, this trust is key to maintaining honesty in the relationship. Typically, we trust other people we interact with as well as the companies we do business with. If the privacy is breached and the trust is lost, that can have a significant impact on our actions.
Privacy is a buffer for the government power too. The more someone knows about us, the more power they can have over us. Personal data are often misused by private companies, having an impact on our reputations, decisions, and behavior. Private information can be used as a tool to exercise control over us. And in the wrong hands, personal data can be used to cause us great harm.
Respect for Individuals
Privacy is also about respect for each individual. If a person has a reasonable wish to keep something private, it is highly disrespectful to ignore the desires of that person without a compelling reason to do so. Clearly, the desire for privacy can sometimes conflict with moral values, so privacy may not always win the battle. Sometimes people’s aspirations for privacy are simply brushed aside because the harm inflicted is minimal. Even if the privacy breach does not cause a significant injury, it demonstrates a lack of respect for that person.
Social Boundary Maintenance
We live in a society that has rules. And people like to establish boundaries that separate them from the rest of the community. These boundaries are both virtual and real. We need a place of solitude to retreat to, places where we are free to relax and feel like our real selves. Different relationships have different boundaries. Breaches of these boundaries can be a cause of awkward social encounters and damage relationships. Privacy also acts as a barrier that reduces social friction in people’s lives. People would rather keep certain things private and also, do not want to know certain things about other people.
With this we end the first part of our two-part series. Privacy is a serious matter that is often taken lightly, mainly because it is misinterpreted. Just because we don’t have “anything to hide,” that does not mean we do not deserve privacy.
Having questions? Feel free to post them in the comments! You can also join the burning discussion about privacy in our Telegram group.