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Privacy Issues

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Privacy means that some data subject has some rights over some data. Data protection implies a set of mechanisms to support the rights of the data subject, to limit the actions of other agents, and to resolve any disputes.

This raises a number of complex issues.
Ownership Who ‘owns’ the data? Does a company own the data it has collected about a person? Does a person have any ownership rights over his/her ‘own’ data? What data (if any) are governed by the principles of data protection, and what data are not so governed?
Identity There must be some reliable mechanism for matching the identity of the data subject with the identity referenced by the data. Furthermore, this mechanism should not itself represent an invasion of privacy.
Ontology Many types of data reference multiple individuals. For example, data about a secret relationship between two individuals can be understood as belonging to the pair (which is a composite data subject). However, the very existence of this pair may be part of the secret.
Collaboration If secret data belong collectively to multiple individuals, then any legitimate action over such data may require a collaboration between them. Of course, any individual named as a party to a secret relationship may seek individual recompense. It is not always clear what rights (if any) an individual has when details of a secret relationship are published unilaterally by one party.

Example: John Major, former UK prime minister, was embarrassed by the publication of an autobiography by fellow (hrm hrm) politician Edwina Currie, in which she revealed details of a long-standing affair between them. His public response was ungracious and ungentlemanly.

Fiction / Libel Reports of a secret relationship may sometimes be fabricated. Standing up for one's rights against libel or slander may involve reference to a pairing that was only brought into being by the libel.

Note - these issues apply to commercial relationships between organizations, as well as to sexual relationships between consenting adults.

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Secrecy Issues

veryard projects > security > privacy > secrecy

In an electronic age, many secrets are provisional, contingent. Something you had long forgotten - a past indiscretion, a false rumour - can be posted on the Internet and disseminated around the world.

If you want to be elected to public office, or marry a Norwegian prince, you apparently have to accept this as a matter of routine - for your nearest and dearest as well as for yourself.

Paper records in dusty offices may be hard to access, and therefore "practically obscure". But these records are still public, and therefore vulnerable to sudden broadcast, if someone chooses to turn a searchlight on you.

more Do you have a secret past?
Information Leakage
more Practically Obscure

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Privacy Links

veryard projects > security > privacy > links

IBM [IBM Privacy Products and Services] [IBM Privacy Research Institute] [EPAL]
Data Protection [EUROPA - Data Protection HomePage] [EU data protection overview - 10 Jun 2002]
more Some useful material in the August 2001 edition of Darwin Magazine. And check out the Washington Post.

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Last update November 11th, 2003
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