Wanting privacy shouldn’t be conflated with having something to hide

Memeburn has a good article titled Privacy is worth protecting, even if you have nothing to hide which is a great reminder that privacy isn’t about having something to hide. There are many valid reasons to insist that your right to privacy be respected:

The reason most often given for failing to consider digital privacy in our day-to-day lives is that, if we have nothing to hide, there’s no need to. Others, meanwhile, take the line of thinking proffered by those institutions caught eavesdropping and argue that monitoring metadata alone — information about, for example, which telephone number you called when and for how long, rather than the content of the call itself — doesn’t amount to an infringement of privacy.

Both of these arguments are fundamentally flawed. Wanting privacy shouldn’t be conflated with having something to hide. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to want to keep certain things private – from their religious or political affiliation to their sexual orientation or drunken photos they’d rather family or employers (current or potential) didn’t see. For political dissidents living under repressive regimes, meanwhile, privacy can be a matter of life or death.

Here are two other perspectives:

Pitfalls of demanding employees’ social network access credentials

I receive questions now and then about the legalities of employers demanding access to prospective employees’ access credentials for their social networks. I haven’t had a chance to prepare a post on this (I believe there are two big pitfalls for employers and this practice is most likely unlawful) so I recorded a few thoughts instead.

Employers engaging in this practice are exposing themselves to substantial liability and claims of rights infringements. It’s just a bad idea and should be actively discouraged.

Privacy in a nutshell, a guide

Update (2012-06-11): I recently spoke at the Permission Based Marketing Conference in Cape Town and captured this overview I gave of privacy law as well as a few thoughts about the definition of “consent” in the 7th draft of the Protection of Personal Information Bill. I thought the privacy law overview would complement this guide quite nicely:

I started working on an overdue post this morning and, as I started to do that, I realised it would be really helpful to first publish this guide, “Privacy law in a nutshell“, as an introduction to South African privacy law (some of the principles apply elsewhere too). It is a pretty brief overview but if you are not familiar with some of the basic legal principles and considerations relating to privacy, this should help.