Protecting Your Privacy

What is Privacy?

Privacy has many definitions.  According to the American Association of Certified Public Accountants, privacy is

​"The rights and obligations of individuals and organizations with respect to the collection, use, disclosure, and retention of personally identifiable information."

Some dictionaries define privacy as “the state of being free from unsanctioned intrusion.”

ISPO (and other privacy professionals) define privacy as the right to be “left alone.” 

Why Care About Privacy?

Privacy is a basic human need.  ISPO has heard many people say that they’re not doing anything wrong, so it doesn’t matter if they’re being monitored.  That drives us crazy.  There are many legal things we do that we may not want others to watch, such as kissing our spouse, singing in the shower, or reading trashy novels.  In addition to our dignity, here’s why we should all care about privacy:

  • Financial impact — Will my insurance costs go up if my health insurance company tracks that I always buy frozen pizza, beer, corn chips, and chocolates.
  • Personal safety — Do strangers know where I am?  Am I being tracked or stalked?
  • Ick factor — Am I being monitored?  Is this George Orwell’s 1984?
  • Stifling individualism, expression, and creativity — Will I still express myself knowing that I’m being monitored?

What’s the Difference between Security and Privacy?

Privacy depends on good security.  You must implement security to ensure privacy.  

Security is a technical process, while privacy is the business-related consequence of that process.

Think of security as a sealed envelope.  Privacy is the successful delivery of the message inside the envelope to the right person.

What About Online?

Many search engines and websites track your visits.  Skeptical?  Check out Panopticlic.  Panopticlic is a research project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Panopticlick tests your browser to see how unique it is based on the information it will share with sites it visits.  

What Can You Do?

The most important things you can do to protect your privacy both online and in “the real world” are:

  • Be aware — Read the fine print and Website privacy policies.
  • Don’t blindly give out your personal information — Ask how your info will be used or whether it’s shared.  
  • Support those who respect privacy — Give your business to responsible retailers.
  • Support organizations and initiatives that build privacy into systems.

How to Read a Privacy Policy

Privacy policies are often hard to read, because they’re usually written in legalese instead of understandable English.  The three key things to look for in a privacy policy are:

  • Collection — What information about you is being collected.
  • Use — How is that information used.
  • Disclosure — With whom is the information shared.

More Information

Electronic Privacy Information Center

International Association of Privacy Professionals

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

World Privacy Forum A to Z Index

Five Tips to Help You Protect Your Privacy