...without it we cannot assert our equality, autonomy and dignity

protesters

All human beings are born free and equal and should be treated the same way.

The way digital technologies are deployed has radically influenced the distribution of power in our societies. Digital information can be created, transmitted, stored and distributed far more easily and cheaply than ever before, on a scale that was previously unimaginable. This information is power in the hands of those that know how to use it. Governments and companies alike have been racing to occupy as much space as possible, increasing their surveillance and their knowledge about each and every one of us on an unprecedented scale.

These developments widen the gap between those who can access and control information and those who can’t. Governments and tech companies increase their power by the exclusive control they have over vast amounts of information about all of us.

Privacy is essential to our freedom and equality. Privacy allows us to assert our autonomy and dignity in a world where significant power imbalances exist. It enables us to establish boundaries against unwarranted interference and unjustified uses of power and gives us the space to freely negotiate who we are and how we want to interact with the world around us. Privacy protects us from malicious actors using our information against us, from enhancing existing inequalities, or creating new ones.

The mass collection and analysis of information about each of us threatens more than our individual privacy. Information on one of us is now a gateway to millions of other people’s data. Information exposed about one person almost always exposes information about others and the inferences drawn from one person’s data can be used to determine information about someone else, and influence other’s behaviour.

Ensuring privacy can help establish an equitable balance of power for everyone in a society. By protecting privacy, the power of certain actors to exert control is curtailed by limiting the information that they can access.

Privacy provides us with the essential conditions to live in equality with autonomy and dignity.


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Free and equal

 

* Photo by Micheile Henderson @micheile010 // Visual Stories [nl] on Unsplash