Privacy means that some data subject has some rights over
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
What can the data subject do with the data? (e.g. publish, hide, preserve,
What can other agents NOT do with the data? (e.g. publish, hide, preserve,
What recompense is the data subject entitled to, in the event of any accidental
or deliberate breach of these rights.
This raises a number of complex issues.
||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?
||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.
||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.
||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.
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