Privacy is a difficult concept. It is perceived by most people as a legal and moral right to have. Several laws have captured these rights, including the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act. It is however not something that can be measured. It is a concept that represents the degree of private life and personal space needed and maintained by individuals. Any invasion of privacy or perception of it will have a significant impact on people’s lifes.
Analysing the concept of privacy further, several dimensions or layers of privacy exist:
· Privacy of the body, also called the inviolability of the human body. It concerns the integrity of ones body, which means that persons have the right to refuse injections, blood transfusions, sterilisation, etc.
· Privacy of personal behaviour. In principle, this involves with all human behaviour, but in particular sexual inclination, political and religious preferences, etc., either in private or public places.
· Privacy of personal communication. Individuals claim the right to communicate privately with other individuals without the knowledge of third parties. This is also called interception privacy.
· Privacy of personal data. This involves the right that personal data cannot be accessed or used by third parties without the explicit consent of the involved individual(s). This applies to the storage, processing and transmission of personal data as described in most data protection legislation. This is also called information privacy.
Privacy protection is the process of finding the right balance between the privacy of the individual and the interests of the public in general. To protect privacy, general guidelines are the most pragmatic solution, because privacy involves different levels and dimensions and because the definition of different operational processes related to privacy is very complex. These guidelines can be applied in to the various (groups of) individuals and organisations. Additionally sanctions must be defined to counter non-compliance.
Agreeing codes of practice with the associated procedures for specific branches and technologies would enable the resolution of conflicts of interest and provide a guideline, which is acceptable for all parties.