Privacy is sometimes referred to as the right of the individual to be left alone. However, increasingly this right is under threat as a consequence of the increase in information technology, biometrics (the use of bio-organic means of identification such as retinal scans and DNA), digital rights and information technology.
The internet has enabled an enormous amount of personal information to be captured and accessed by anyone. Every day you read about some breach of people's privacy or an organisation having its website hacked. As demonstrated by Sony Playstations global privacy meltdown, ATM skimming and the ongoing adjustments to "Privacy settings" on Facebook. The social networks are the biggest source of identity theft in the world.
Governments and corporations today are collecting ever increasing and detailed amounts of information on members of the general public. They use this information for a variety of purposes, everything from customer service to law enforcement considerations to marketing and advertising.
Privacy laws regulate the type of information that may be collected and how this information may be used. They are designed to safeguard individuals and groups from slander, libel and harassment.
Privacy legislation protects your right to:
- Protect your privacy
- Know what personal information government agencies collect and hold about you
- Determine if the records are properly protected
- Ensure the records are protected from wrongful use or disclosure
- Ensure those records are correct or the amendment of those that you can prove are wrong
- Ensure they are disposed of in a secure manner.
Organisations need to consider the marketing and commercial advantage to be able to reassure its customers, potential customers and stakeholders that it can protect the personal information it holds. Accidental misuse, hacking or sharing of details can all result in huge financial penalties and loss of consumer confidence. To avoid these repercussions all organisations holding customer information should perform a Privacy audit ("a health check") of their systems to ensure that all precautions are in place to protect customer details and identify and deal with breaches or potential breaches of Privacy by intruders or staff.