Government vs the Big Five on Privacy

As there is more and more technological innovation, more data is getting collected. Due to this, organisations are facing a challenging risk matrix to make sure that a person’s personal information is protected. Hence, the protection of privacy is fast emerging as a very important issue in the global information economy. ‍


As there is more and more technological innovation, more data is getting collected. Due to this, organisations are facing a challenging risk matrix to make sure that a person’s personal information is protected. Hence, the protection of privacy is fast emerging as a very important issue in the global information economy.


What Does Privacy Mean?


Privacy means the right to be alone or be free from interference. It also includes who one wants to interact with and has the ability to control who can see or use one’s information about him. It helps to establish boundaries on who has access to our bodies, places, things, and other sensitive information. 


Privacy can be looked at in different ways:

  • Information privacy - this is the right to have a certain degree of control over how an individual’s personal information is collected and used. 
  • Physical privacy - an example of this is being frisked at the airport for security reasons
  • Surveillance privacy - an example of this is when a person’s identity cannot be proved 


Nowadays,whenever one talks about privacy, the conversation centres around social networking, data branches, target advertising and the like. 


The Importance of Privacy


More Information Means More Power


The more information that one has about another, the more power the former has over the latter. When one uses the personal data of another, he can affect the former’s reputation, influence his decisions, and also affect his behaviour. Hence, when the personal data of an individual is obtained, thus hampering his privacy, the person who has this information has the ability to exercise control over him.This makes him more powerful. 


Respecting Privacy Means Respecting Individuals


If an individual does not want to divulge certain information about himself, then it is disrespectful to ignore this wish of his without a compelling reason to do so. Only if privacy is in conflict with other greater interests like, say, a nation’s value system, threats to other citizens etc., can an individual’s privacy be compromised.


Privacy Is Linked to Reputation 


Everyone has the right to protect his reputation as this affects the opportunities and relationships that are available to him. For this, one does want to protect himself against falsehoods and certain other information that he might not want others to know about. Hence, the importance of privacy maintenance. 


Privacy Means Not Crossing Certain Boundaries

We don't want everyone to know everything about us. This is a boundary that we set for ourselves. Respecting an individual’s privacy - be that physical or informational - means not overstepping these boundaries. This helps to build trust and breaches of confidentiality make one lose trust in the other.

Can Privacy Be Absolute?


While respecting one’s privacy is important, there are many reasons why one’s private information becomes mandatory. This is why privacy cannot be absolute. There are situations when other factors become more important than maintaining one’s privacy. Some instances are:

  • When one is frisked at the airport for security reasons
  • During a court case where the lawyer and the judge will be privy to a lot of personal information 
  • A doctor who is helping his patient to get better
  • If the Government feels that private information is needed otherwise, the security of the nation is at stake


Privacy and the Government

The Government has the responsibility of protecting its citizens. This includes protection of their privacy as well. Often, though, this line is breached. For example, this happened in 2013 when Edward Snowden brought to light NSA’s spying program, thus bringing the issue of privacy into the spotlight. How,then, can a government balance privacy and national interest?


Threat to National Security


The Government needs to draw a balance between national security and every citizen’s right to freedom of expression and privacy rights. The general consensus is that unless there is a valid reason to spy on someone, for example when there is a threat to the country’s security, it shouldn’t. 


Every Individual Has the Freedom of Expression


Everything that a person says, cannot be monitored by the government. Only when such expressions can have a negative connotation - for example, a hate speech against another’s religious sentiments - can the government use such speeches to track down an individual. 


Voting Privacy


Votes are cast confidentially. The government cannot influence this decision. However, if it is seen that unfair practices are being used during the casting of votes -like the rigging of booths, bribery, proxy voting etc - the individuals who are doing so can be tracked down. 


Access to Some Mandatory Information


Like it or not, the government will have access to some private data. These are collected for the running of the nation and maintaining certain documents. Some examples are:

  • Access to individuals’ financial information through tax records
  • Medical records of those who have applied for military positions
  • Information that is shared so as to obtain cards like the Aadhar Card, voter’s ID, driver’s license etc. 


Privacy and the Big Five

Many activities that we conduct online leaves behind a trail of data. Often this includes sensitive information like phone records, credit card transactions,addresses, locational history etc. This data is gathered by service providers like instant messaging apps, the websites that one has visited and others. Without the knowledge of the individual, this data then gets shared with others. When it reaches large tech companies, they use it for advertising so as to tempt individuals to buy their product/service. 


Even if one doesn't use Facebook, Google, or Google Chrome, there are still chances that these large tech giants will be able to track one down via website tracking wherein they use tools like Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Facebook Pixels and more. 


Till 2019, it was known that the Big Five tech companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple,and Microsoft) have been recording and listening to people's private conversations. The reason they cited was that they wanted to improve services.The use of automatic speech assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant has increased this risk even further. 


It is the need for hyper-personalisation that makes the companies, and others, cross the line. The want to gain a competitive edge makes organisations want to know everything about a particular customer. This makes them want to obtain his private information. However, there needs to be a balance between hyper-personalisation and ethical data usage. 


Can Privacy Still Be Maintained?


If the Government, organisations, and other individuals take over our privacy, they will be able to easily control and manipulate a person. Can privacy be maintained? Yes, it is still possible to protect oneself. 

  • One should be cautious before sharing private data online or with others. 
  • If possible pay by cash instead of using a credit card
  • Encrypt sensitive emails that are being sent
  • Read the terms of services carefully before using the product or subscribing to a service
  • Review how a website that you are visiting will be tracking you


It is only when privacy gets recognised as a basic human right there will be consequences if one disrespects it. Without certain restrictions, companies and governments will be easily able to both steal and misuse data without facing any consequences for the same. Privacy laws are, hence, becoming the need of the hour for the protection of privacy rights.


The case for data privacy is fast becoming more relevant as we move into the age of AI. The question that thus, arises is who actually owns the data. As individuals are becoming more aware of data breaches, there is a loss of trust that is happening with respect to governments and tech companies. A data revolution seems to be around the corner when transparency and security standards of user data will need to get established. 


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