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Last updated Jul 10, 2022 Edit Source

Privacy isn’t about shutting out everyone and everything. Instead, privacy gives you the power to choose what and with whom you’ll share. It provides safety, control and the right to grant access.

Privacy gives you the ability to express yourself, to be creative, to spend your time and your money in whatever manner you like, without the scrutiny of others. It protects our intimate moments, our most embarrassing ambitions, our radical ideas and the ability to be our true selves.

Privacy is freedom, consent, dignity and security.

# Definitions

However, some people take advantage of privacy to plan and carry out illegal or immoral activities

There is also conflicting needs between companies and users

Data anonymization isn’t enough. Even if some of the data is scrambled and personally identifiable information is stripped, it is susceptable to linkage attacks (correlating rows of the anonymized dataset to other known datasets)

~87% of all Americans can be identified using only 3 pieces of information:

  1. zip code
  2. birthday
  3. gender

# Privacy for independent development

Privacy is the way in which a social group recognizes and communicates to the individual that he is responsible for his development as a unique person, a separate moral agent

It’s valuable because it lets us be ourselves. In order to have different kinds of social relationships with different people, we need to have some kind of control over who knows what about us (see: context collapse, Fishbowl effect)

# Differential Privacy

tldr; add randomized noise that maintains distribution of data

When submitting a piece of data:

  1. A fair coin is flipped.
  2. If heads: the real data is sent
  3. If tails: we generate a random number to encode the result as random noise (e.g. true for heads, false for tails)

This way, we can’t trust any single record to be accurate (plausible deniability), but the aggregate still remains useful.

As we know noise distribution, this can be accounted for the in final calculation.

Note that this will only work for larger datasets as injecting noise into a small dataset will likely result in inaccurate data

# Usage

# Contextual Privacy

From Antonio García Martínez in The right to never be forgotten

Helene Nissenbaum’s ‘contextual privacy’

An example she draws in her work is imagining your interactions with your physician when dealing with a medical issue. Even in a world where the right to live as a stranger among strangers reigns supreme, we unquestioningly turn over the most intimate medical details to people we barely know.

Now, let’s imagine you leave your doctor’s office and fire up Instagram to take your mind off the diagnosis he just gave you, which is that you don’t have brain cancer but you simply suffer from chronic migraines and will just have to deal. Scrolling past pictures of friends and celebrities, you see an advertisement for a migraine medication, specifically for the vestibular migraines you suffer from. While two seconds ago you were willing to send images of your brain across the world for medical advice, you now feel horribly violated knowing that everyone from Facebook to a pharma marketing team know about your condition.

The context of your privacy—what’s being revealed to whom and for what reason—utterly changed and you had no say in it.

See also: GDPR

# Proxemics

Proxemics, a term coined by anthropologist Edward T. Hall, defines the relationships between a person and their identity, their surroundings, and the social norms of the community around a person or individual.

Gradients of Intimacy

There are four zones in proxemics

  1. the intimate, the “bedroom”
    • The “bedroom,” an equally intimate space where only a few people are invited in. This is like a private DM or a text message between one or two friends or family members. It is a space to share your thoughts. Secrets are welcomed, and comfortably kept.
  2. the personal, the “living room”
    • It’s semi-private, but can also host large groups and conversations that are designed to be public, private, or in-between. This setting allows for more intimacy because it allows for a smaller group. This design functions much like a salon or a group gathered for lively debate. The living room is a metaphor for a closed Facebook group or a WhatsApp chat group.
  3. the social, the “park bench”
    • It’s like walking down the street and engaging in conversation with a coworker or friend, or having a discussion on the tube or in a pub—is a space where anyone can have a conversation between two or a few people, but that conversation takes place in public. Those in the conversation can control who hears it by lowering their voice or walking to a less populated area.
  4. and the public space, the “town hall”
    • This is where we shout our thoughts or share things we don’t mind thousands of people seeing. The town hall is a public square for speaking loudly and deliberately. Your thoughts can spread virally; They will be heard, amplified and sometimes misinterpreted.

# Rights to privacy

Differing opinions on the status of privacy as a right. General consensus is that privacy is a prudential right. That is, rational agents would agree to recognize some privacy rights because granting these rights is to the benefit of society

# Taxonomy of Privacy

Proposed by Daniel Solove

  1. Information collection refers to activities that gather personal information
  2. Information processing refers to activities that store, manipulate, and use personal information that has been collected
  3. Information dissemination refers to activities that spread personal information
  4. Invasion refers to activities that intrude upon a person’s daily life, interrupt a person’s solitude, or interfere with someone’s decision making

# US Legislation

Restricting information collection

  1. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA) prohibits most private employers from using lie-detector tests under most situation
  2. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) states that online services must obtain parental consent before collecting any information from children 12 years old and younger.
  3. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits health insurance companies and health plan administrators from requesting genetic information from individuals or their family members, and it forbids them from using genetic information when making decisions about coverage, rates, or preexisting conditions

What the US collects on its citizens

  1. Census Records. In order to ensure each state has fair representation in the House of Representatives, the United States Constitution requires the government to perform a census every 10 years
  2. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Records
  3. FBI National Crime Information Center 2000 includes such categories as wanted persons, criminal histories, people incarcerated in federal prisons, convicted sex offenders, unidentified persons, people believed to be a threat to the president, foreign fugitives, violent gang members, and suspected terrorists
  4. OneDOJ Database provides state and local police officers access to information supplied by five federal law enforcement agencies: the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the US Marshals Service; and the Bureau of Prisons
  5. Closed-Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV)
  6. License-Plate Scanners
  7. Police Drones. Federal Aviation Administration rules require that drones used by the police weigh no more than 25 pounds, fly no higher than 400 feet, and be flown during daylight within view of the operator

Covert Surveillance in the States

# Code of Fair Information Practices

In the early 1970s, a group convened to recommend a set of policies often dubbed the “bill of rights” for the Information Age

  1. There must be no personal data record-keeping systems whose very existence is secret.
  2. There must be a way for a person to find out what information about the person is in a record and how it is used.
  3. There must be a way for a person to prevent information about the person that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without the person’s consent.
  4. There must be a way for a person to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about the person.
  5. Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuses of the data.

The Privacy Act of 1974 represents Congress’s attempt to codify the principles described in the Code of Fair Information Practices. However, in most respects, it has fallen short of the desires of privacy advocates:

  1. The Privacy Act applies only to government databases. Far more information is held in private databases, which are excluded. This is an enormous loophole, because government agencies can purchase information from private organizations that have the data they want.
  2. The Privacy Act only covers records indexed by a personal identifier.
  3. No one in the federal government is in charge of enforcing the provisions of the Privacy Act. Federal agencies have taken it upon themselves to determine which databases they can exempt.
  4. The Privacy Act allows one agency to share records with another agency as long as they are for a “routine use.”