The following post was written by Sarah A. Downey, an attorney and privacy analyst at Abine. It is part 1 in a 3-part series on what privacy is not, allowing us to define what privacy is by examining what it isn’t.
Privacy isn’t about hiding bad things. It’s about protecting our freedom to do good things. Until we recognize this simple distinction, we’re in trouble.
Privacy isn’t some dark shadow that only “bad people” pull over themselves when they’re doing “bad things.” Stop thinking about it like that. Instead, picture it like the protection of a high-walled room with an open ceiling. We each have our own room, and they’re all part of one enormous house. We’re connected to our friends, family, and acquaintances through doors that we control.
Let’s say you’ve chosen to close your doors. You stand in the center of your room. No matter how hard you try, you can’t look over the walls. Nor can anyone else look in and see you. Once you choose to close your doors, no one is tracking your movements; no one can hear what you say; no one can read what you’ve written; no one knows who you’ve been hanging out with. You can do what you want without judgment or consequence. No one is watching you. You’re free. You can open certain doors to specific people, knowing that they’re the only ones with whom you’re sharing. Privacy provides both the boundaries of and protection for the space in which we can be ourselves.