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Privacy Vs Sharing

Definition of Privacy


noun, plural pri·va·cies for 5, 6.

  1. the state of being apart from other people or concealed from their view; solitude; seclusion:Please leave the room and give me some privacy.
  2. the state of being free from unwanted or undue intrusion or disturbance in one's private life or affairs; freedom to be let alone: Tourists must respect the tribe’s privacy. Those who wish to smoke can do so in the privacy of their own homes. See also invasion of privacy.
  3. freedom from damaging publicity, public scrutiny, secret surveillance, or unauthorized disclosure of one’s personal data or information, as by a government, corporation, or individual: Ordinary citizens have a qualified right to privacy. There is so much information about us online that personal privacy may be a thing of the past.

Based on at least the third definition most people would agree that there's no such thing as privacy.

Privacy legislation

As far as I can ascertain there's nothing in the above act that defines what privacy is. Ther a whole lot of sections that define the meaning of other things but not the word privacy

The second objective of the Privacy Act is “to recognise that the protection of the privacy of individuals is balanced with the interests of entities in carrying out their functions or activities”. The statement says it all. The interest of entities which could be governments or corporations may well override the interests of individuals. An individual's personal opinion may not matter. As an example, it is argued that it is in the interest of governments to know people's names, dates of birth, dates of marriages and dates of various other things, which may not be in the interests of individuals.

Individuals do not have to comply with the privacy legislation. With some exceptions, only organisations beyond a certain size have to comply. Turnover more than $3 million. So don't expect your neighbour all local tradesperson to have to comply. There are number of other organisations that do not have to comply some of which are registered political parties and political representatives.

As far as I can determine for those organisations that do have to comply with the privacy legislation, this does not stop them from obtaining storing and disseminating private information. The legislation just dictates, how they must do it.

Technical aspects of Information Privacy

Information is not physical

Unlike physical items, information, once given, cannot be ungiven or retrieved. If you give a person a physical item, they have it and you no longer have it. If they give you the item back, you then have it and they no longer have it. If you give a person some information, both you and the person you give it to have it. Even if you ask the person to give you the information back and they do, they still have the information. Humans can forget information, computers don't

This is a concept that is often not accounted for when referring to personal information and digital information in general.

Privacy can be both physical and non physical. As in the definitions of privacy above, it could be that nobody else can see a person, physical privacy, or that nobody has information about a person, data privacy. The type of privacy that is being considered here and is covered by the above legislation, is data privacy.

Computer data is extremely easy to duplicate,and is routinely done as a matter of course for security and backup purposes. It is also now, because of the internet,easily communicated.

Computer software

The only way that computer data can be input, stored, processed, transmitted and received is via computer software. Relatively few people in the world write software that does those things. Often it is embedded in proprietary (owned by corporations) software. It is typically, operating system software.

All modern software is often based on earlier software. The writing of a computer program requires another program to write a computer program. What are called editors, compilers, linkers and interpreters. In practally all cases, the people that write software did not write the programs (programming tools) that do the editing compiling linking or interpreting, required to write their programs. Just like people that use tools to build machinery did not make the tools.

Without the detailed knowledge of the tools that they use, programmers are not always sure that the program they write, do exactly what they they want it to do, in all situations. Proof of this is the fact that there are so many bugs (does not always do what it's supposed to do) in software.

In the case of Proprietary software, copyright laws do not allow the inspection of the code that makes up computer programs, such that it is not possible to know, in all circumstances, what these programs do.

In this respect privacy of data can never be guaranteed. I am suggesting that even the programers that write the software cannot guarantee, that any data is 100% private. They also can not guarantee 100% that data is secure.

Removing and revising private data

As I'm writing this document I'm doing so over the internet using what is called dockuwiki.

One of the great features it has, is the what is called version control. Basically that means that every time I edit this document it keeps a record of all the previous editing I've made to the document. It is something that has become commonplace on the internet. I just went back and looked at how many times it has stored edits and it's currently set at 21. That means I can go back through 21 versions of this document. Even if I were to go to the document and now delete it, I could always go back and retrieve the entry before I deleted it. It is a great safety feature from a security point of view.

All major internet software either does or should have such a feature.

But it causes all sorts of issues when it comes to privacy. Let's say that I wrote something about a person and then that person asked me to delete what I wrote. I would do so by just editing the document and removing the appropriate text. The person then would read the document on the internet and be satisfied that I have removed the offending text. But it's not gone. It would still exist in one of my previous versions. The person concerned may not be able to see it, but I could.

Even if I went back and deleted all the old versions of an offending part of the document, because I have a backup system, the previous versions would also be stored

If someone else had made a copy of my web document before I modified it, there is nothing I could do to change their copy.

Because data is so important and is easily backed up, modified, duplicated, preserved, it is very difficult to even remember how many copies of something may exist.

So if you write something on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube,Twitter, or any other Internet application and suddenly realise you want to remove it, even if you can do so, a record of it, probably still exists. I would suggest even those people that own these websites, may not be aware of how many copies they have of exactly the same piece of data. Typically they would have copies in multiple locations throughout the world.

The right to be forgotten

See also

In addition to information being presented on web pages, search engines browse the internet and index it, so that people can find information. The largest of these search engines is Google, which provides search facilities worldwide. Even if information is removed from a webpage, the index to that web page may not be removed from Google.

The right to be forgotten is a concept that has been discussed and put into practice in the European Union (EU) since 2006. From a privacy perspective some people believe that information should be able to be removed from both web pages and indexes to those web pages, so that anybody looking for the information should not be able to find it. Others may have different opinions

In 2015, Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL), the data privacy watchdog of France tried to impose the right to be forgotten globally. CNIL asked Google to remove data from all versions available in any part of the world. Google and other entities argued that European data regulators should not be allowed to decide what Internet users around the world find when they use a search engine. It was also argued that the French did not have legal jurisdiction over the rest of the world.

It is also worth considering that any data you put on the internet could circumvent any Australian legislation because the organisations concerned may not operate as a legal entity in Australia.

Internet Archive

Ther is a web site called the Internet Archive or the wayback machine:

It takes copies of some parts of the internet at various points in time to be able to preserve history. Considering that modern culture has a lot to do with the internet this internet archive plays an important role.

But it has implications for privacy, in the longer term. What may drop off web pages over time will be preserved for ever on the internet archive.

Passed on data

Weather done with permission or not, data can easily be passed on from one person to the other or one organisation to the other. Regardless of what legislation may exist, it is nearly impossible to police the movement of data. It's probably even more difficult than it is to police information being spoken from one person to the other.

Computers and computer devices can automatically copy data to and from other computers without any human interaction, without the owners of them even realising it. Automatic Software updates and capture data for software feedback are typical examples.

It could be that you could be infringing somebody's privacy without even knowing about it.

Artificial intelligence

Part of artificial intelligence is machine learning. The computer's learn from what has happened in the past.

As was described above under the computer software heading, presently some programmers may not know what their programs are doing in all circumstances. With the advent and proliferation of artificial intelligence this is going to become even more so. Without knowing it programmers may be causing computer systems to infringe people's privacy. Who would be then responsible? The person that wrote the software, the person that used the software or the software itself?

Data sharing

Information is power. The idea of keeping information to oneself is to give oneself more power. Although that may be more power to the individual it's not more power to society in general. The more information that is shared the more power society in general has.

Perhaps there should be more legislation to allow the sharing of data. I'm not currently aware of any legislation that does that. But I do know plenty of legislation that stops the sharing of data.


Even though some very limited laws exist for privacy, they have very little effect and even if they were extended, because of the pure nature of information and information technology they would have very little effect. In reality ther in no such thing as data privacy. But like many things in life, perceptions are more important than reality.

Research material used

We Want Privacy, but Can’t Stop Sharing (New York Times)

Privacy vs. Data Sharing - By Governments

Debate as to whether we have privacy

This person was saying in 2015 he felt there was no such thing as privacy

Online privacy doesn't exist

A, TED Talk video explaining why this person feels online privacy doesn't exist

privacy_vs_sharing.txt · Last modified: 2018/10/13 07:08 (external edit)