We have to understand the right to privacy before we can protect it

Fountain Square in Downtown Cincinnati Is a Public Square That Works for the City and Its People in a Myriad of Ways: Crowd at Israeli Birthday Celebration 05/1973

I recently wrote an article for Mark Lives titled “Privacy — what do you expect?” where I explored a theme I’ve been thinking about for a while. The central challenge, as I see it, is how data subjects understand privacy and what their expectations are:

The problem with the right to privacy, generally, is that we, collectively, don’t really have a clear sense of what the content of our right to privacy is. We talk about our right and how it is infringed upon by a number of daily activities but, when we are pressed to identify the point at which an activity crosses the line that separates respecting the right and infringing upon it, we are frequently at a loss.

Without a clear message from data subjects, like you and me, to governments and businesses describing data protection expectations, governments and businesses are left to decide what the right to privacy includes and where its limits are. That will, inevitably, lead to clashes between data subjects and the entities that are processing their personal information that, in turn, leads to increasing distrust.

Data subjects have a responsibility to debate and agree on what the right to privacy means and to make their expectations known. Once everyone is on the same page, so to speak, a meaningful discussion about how best to respect the right and protect it can take place.