Defining privacy and privacy law
In the broader perspective, privacy laws are regulations that protect the private information of individuals or organizations. Privacy in this case refers to the ability of organizations or individuals to plan information concerning them and hence expose them selectively. The limits and scope of what is regarded private vary from culture to culture and individual to individual, although, they share basic general themes.
Therefore privacy law can be seen as the policies which manage the regulation of private information concerning individuals or groups which can be accessed by regulatory bodies and other public entities in addition to private firms and its use and storage.
In the context of human rights, right to privacy is regarded as fundamental and is protected by the law in all countries. With an exception of a few, human rights act as the basis of developing privacy laws in many countries. Privacy protection defines the capacity to keep the privacy of certain information or restrict to an authorized individuals or parties.
This definition leads to the identification and introduction of the many kinds of privacy laws. However, four general types of privacy protection can be identified namely: legislation, physical, third-party and virtual. These protections in turn describe the four basic types of private laws namely: health privacy laws, online privacy laws, information privacy laws and communication privacy laws (Gupta, 2010, p.150).
Types of privacy protection
The physical type of privacy protection involves the application of physical security measures such as locks and pass-codes to protect information or physical properties. This kind of protection is effective especially when the access to the security measures is difficult to get or restricted to a limited number of people. In most cases, people do not follow the appropriate procedure needed to maintain a high level of security.
Sometimes, people make the mistake of exposing the security measures or labeling them in a manner that the matching components are easily recognized. In regard to privacy law, this kind of protection was very relevant in the old days, but the trend has evolved and the contemporary protections have become prevalent. However, this protection still applies in the privacy laws of many developed countries from western hemisphere and any violation is liable to severe penalties.
Third-party privacy protection is yet another kind of protection that is pertinent to privacy law. This protection generally refers to the case where an entity takes the role to protect private information. There are very many recognized firms that have specialized in private protection as their core business.
The services provided by such firms are targeted to a small class of people with high profile ranking or celebrities. The specific instruments utilized to offer protection differ, depending on the particular security needs of each customer. For instance, an important business person might need lawyers to make sure that the media does not make their private information public. Similarly, a celebrity may ensure that his or her health issues remain private. This has been observed in many America music celebrities who go to an extent of giving birth in primitive hospitals of Africa to ensure privacy is maintained.
The other kind of privacy protection is virtual privacy protection and involves all activities completed through a computer or the World Wide Web. In regard to private law, virtual protection is largely associated with information technology and in particular the internet. The first platform in this kind of privacy protection is a firewall which describes a type of program used to limit access to the documents stored on a database or a computer to authorized users or those within the network.
The other platform refers to the application of internet security protocols. These are programs designed to reduce virus attacks or malicious programs that make the internet insecure. Online privacy laws are most relevant to this protection largely because of the advancement in information technology. For example, hackers are people with more advanced skills in software application than users and hence can access private information without any detection from the owner.
These internet offenders can use any customized website to access user’s information through the LAN network in use. Other uses that violate online privacy laws are the posting of pornographic materials on the internet or unwarranted and abusive social media interaction.
Many countries have enacted laws that are focused on addressing privacy rights. Individuals or organizations which violate these enactments are subject to civil litigation for the damages caused. Frequently, privacy law is likened to this kind of privacy protection though it involves all regulatory measures that are put in place to protect private information. Over time, these laws evolved to increase privacy protection such that information technology and the application of data are now included. The major reason for this development is the use of information technology in almost all aspects of life.
Many individuals and organization collect and seek private information to satisfy contractual or service requirements from clients. This information is either sold for profit or exposed to the public to tarnish the integrity and reputation of the holder. For instance, firms and individuals have sold private information especially those relating to innovative designs to other firms without the permission of the innovator.
In this way, businesses have generated revenue and exposed customers to unwanted sales activities. Indeed, this element of privacy law has been the core concern for many regulators. Throughout, the issue of privacy has continued to intensify and in the effort to respond to this intensification, privacy law has changed greatly.
Current trends in privacy law
Not long ago when private laws were not a priority to many regulatory frameworks of governments especially in Asia. However, the trend has completely picked and many economies are considering privacy laws to address the concern of the people over the safety of online transaction. Other countries want to attract investors and business processes of off-shoring, and are much worried that they might lose investment opportunities to other countries unless they can offer guarantee that private information will be protected.
Simultaneously, businesses and government are not ready to hinder business activities in other areas of their processes or upset socially significant flow of personal information. Many entities depend on access to private information to contact new clients, connect with current customers or get updated on various issues. Therefore, governments and business have embarked on finding a balance that addresses the privacy issues of the people as well as protects requirement of foreign countries seeking off-shore services.
In response to these forces, privacy law is shifting towards protection of private information with an emphasis on information technology. Privacy law is moving from ensuring that the law applies to increasing accountability through self regulation. At higher realms, governments are taking measure to enact laws regulating the use of private information and businesses are exploring self-regulation to abate the wave of increased regulatory actions.
For instance, in the European Union, the regulatory commission adjusted the Electronic Communicative Directive to offer the populace more control over their private information (Pillsbury.com & Protiviti.com 2010). In updating the EU data protection laws, this amendment requires all member states to oblige electronic publishers to obtain permission from their clients before tampering with any piece of personal information.
In the business context, privacy issues are currently revolving around three factors: fraud, economy and regulation. Piracy breaches and identity theft are among the many examples of information abuses that have attracted the attention of regulators. Numerous occurrences of illegal access to private information for unwarranted intentions have compelled business to be more vibrant in protecting private information.
Despite fraud being on the rise, world economic uncertainty is the key factor leading to privacy implications. Economic situations reformed privacy initiatives, compelling them to operate with fewer resources. Within the business context, the inexhaustible increase in privacy laws has resulted into a never ending process of compliance. This compliance has placed a substantial resource burden within the business, giving no time and resource capability to look into privacy risks that laws do not account.
Between the years 2010 and 2012, many countries adopted stronger privacy regulations than ever. India, Mexico, Singapore, Peru, Costa Rica to name but a few implemented new legal frameworks for privacy protection. The emphasis put on these endeavors varies but the theme of information technology is prevalent. While some countries focused on protecting consumers, others focused on protecting businesses to attract new investors. These developments suggest that the definition of privacy law is shifting from the acceptance by individual countries towards global acceptance. Therefore, in as much as compliant is important, so is the need to have international laws that respond to the shift.
International Laws and the future debate
Some of the international laws that protect individuals, businesses and countries include but are not limited to fair information practices; safe harbor privacy framework and GAAP principles (Ernst & Young, 2008). Fair information practices principles are the basis of privacy laws in many parts of the world.
These principles compel regulators to observe various aspects when enacting policies such as openness, collection limitation, purpose specification, data quality, individual participation, security safeguards and accountability. Safe harbor privacy framework emphasizes on the creation of protection agencies for governments as well as registration of databases with the agencies.
The GAAP framework consists of ten principles which define good privacy and protection practice for private information. The privacy principles include management; notice; choice and consent; collection; use, retention and disposal; access; disclosure to third parties; security for privacy; quality; monitoring and enforcement. Collectively, these principles protect the private information of individuals, businesses and countries.
From the shift of privacy law observed and the international interests of regulatory bodies, it can be argued that the future debates on privacy law will be centered on accountability. The major argument will be whether the efforts to ensure legal compliant is more effective than promoting accountability through self-regulation.
This debate is already taking shape as many organizations are avoiding greater regulation by working with privacy administrators to set guidelines that deal with privacy implications voluntarily. Indeed, they are increasing accountability by working to demonstrate that information technology can be utilized without compromising personal privacy. However, to achieve greater accountability firms and individuals will have to revise their approaches to privacy in the frameworks of their broader information technology strategies.
Ernst & Young 2008, Generally accepted privacy principles (GAAP): A framework of privacy management. Web.
Gupta 2010, IT Infrastructure & Its Management. Tata McGraw-Hill Education, Mumbai.
Pillsbury and Protiviti. 2010, The global privacy and information security landscape. Web.