The ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves

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.The right not to be subjected to unsanctioned invasions of privacy by the government, corporations or individuals is part of many countries' privacy laws, and in some cases, constitutions. All countries have laws which in some way limit privacy. An example of this would be law concerning taxation, which normally requires the sharing of information about personal income or earnings. In some countries individual privacy may conflict with freedom of speech laws and some laws may require public disclosure of information which would be considered private in other countries and cultures. This was a major concern in the United States, with the Supreme Court passage of Citizens United.Privacy may be voluntarily sacrificed, normally in exchange for perceived benefits and very often with specific dangers and losses, although this is a very strategic view of human relationships. For example, people may be ready to reveal their name, if that allows them to promote trust by others and thus build meaningful social relations. Research shows that people are more willing to voluntarily sacrifice privacy if the data gatherer is seen to be transparent as to what information is gathered and how it is used. In the business world, a person may volunteer personal details (often for advertising purposes) in order to gamble on winning a prize. A person may also disclose personal information as part of being an executive for a publicly traded company in the USA pursuant to federal securities law. Personal information which is voluntarily shared but subsequently stolen or misused can lead to identity theft. The concept of universal individual privacy is a modern construct primarily associated with Western culture, British and North American in particular, and remained virtually unknown in some cultures until recent times. According to some researchers, this concept sets Anglo-American culture apart even from Western European cultures such as French or Italian. Most cultures, however, recognize the ability of individuals to withhold certain parts of their personal information from wider society--closing the door to one's home, for example. The distinction or overlap between secrecy and privacy is ontologically subtle, which is why the word "privacy" is an example of an untranslatable lexeme, and many languages do not have a specific word for "privacy". Such languages either use a complex description to translate the term (such as Russian combining the meaning of уединение--solitude, секретность--secrecy, and частная жизнь--private life) or borrow from English "privacy" (as Indonesian privasi or Italian la privacy). The distinction hinges on the discreteness of interests of parties (persons or groups), which can have emic variation depending on cultural mores of individualism, collectivism, and the negotiation between individual and group rights. The difference is sometimes expressed humorously as, "when I withhold information, it is privacy; when you withhold information, it is secrecy."




Further reading


Documentaries, videos and podcasts


What Is Privacy? | Privacy International

May 12, 2015




Fredrick "Flee" Lee
May 7, 2020
Harvard Business Review
Your customers trust you with their data. Don't let them down.
Natasha Lomas
January 17, 2020
The UK's data protection regulator has been slammed by privacy experts for once again failing to take enforcement action over systematic breaches of the law linked to behaviorally targeted ads -- despite warning last summer that the adtech industry is out of control. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has also previously admitted it suspects the [...]
The Macalope
December 24, 2019
Until reviews mention it, people will make uninformed decisions.
Nicole Perlroth
November 19, 2019
After years of on-and-off debate over nearly snoop-proof security, the industry is girding for new pressure from law enforcement around the world.
David Riggs
September 26, 2019
Technological progress has created a situation of severe tension and incompatibility between the right to privacy and the extensive data pooling on which the digital economy is based.
Natasha Lomas
August 17, 2019
Privacy researchers in Europe believe they have the first proof that a long-theorised vulnerability in systems designed to protect privacy by aggregating and adding noise to data to mask individual identities is no longer just a theory. The research has implications for the immediate field of differential privacy and beyond -- raising wide-ranging questions about [...]


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