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Privacy issues Essay

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What it is?

Privacy is the right of individuals to conceal things, related to them, from others and prevent non-relevant persons/authorities from gaining access to it.  An individual wishes to hide his/her personal information since the latter is an invaluable asset. Anyone gaining access to it can cause harm to the individual. For example, an individual has the right to keep his/her credit card number private. Anyone gaining access to it can cause financial damage to the individual. (Alba, Stay , Lorenzen and Scoble , 2008)

A breach of privacy occurs when an unauthorized person gains access to the information. This breach can only occur at a place where there is a large volume of information about the individuals. In this report we shall look at privacy issues related to the government, retail stores, hospitals, banks, organizations, or social networks like ‘face book’.

Privacy Issues Faced By the Government:

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Governments collect a lot of information of people. Information regarding citizens of the country is required to avoid any act of illegal activities, terrorist attacks, etc. Information of people helps track people involved in criminal activities. More over information is also required to estimate or to calculate the taxes that the residents in the country will be giving in the proceeding year. Information of people is also required to plan for future developments in the country by looking at the people’s age, sex, etc. For example, in order to provide better healthcare to its people, the government collects information on people’s age, sex, illness records etc. (Freeman and Peace, 2004)

Many important benefits occur from people gaining access to this information. Public records can help bring people close together. They can be used to link people who share common activities or hobbies. They can be used to track down missing family members such as finding parents for kids.

Access to these records by businesses helps them to serve consumers better. This improves the quality of goods and services in the country and increases expenditure by consumers. Through this the overall economy prospers. (Chander , Gelman , and Radin , 2008)

Access to these records by law-enforcing agencies improves safety of people. Records of criminal arrests and convictions ensure that such people are not hired at jobs. However, these benefits do not fully justify the breach of individual’s privacy. There are many ways that governments destabilize and threaten the privacy of citizens. Governments have numerous incentives to collect, store, and use information about their citizens. And they bear very little when they abuse information about citizens.

Public records are one way that threatens the privacy of individuals. Information such as on property and loans of an individual , driving license information , criminal record and tax record are some of the example that can be mishandled by the government and other authorized persons and may become a serious issue . Individuals may even commit frauds and violent crimes using the private data available to the government.

For example, public records contain information on people’s bank account. Any one gaining access to it can commit a fraud using this information and then the person bearing the account will be held responsible. Governments take a lot of steps to prevent unauthorized access by people to this information. All these steps are implemented at the points where the information is extracted and recorded.

For example, all vehicles traveling on highways are required to have black boxes fitted into them. These record invaluable information on what individuals do inside the vehicle. So the authorities need to ensure that these black boxes are not easy to break into.  Similarly, all cell phones broad cast information on locations that the cell phone user visits. This is also an invaluable asset. The government needs to ensure that cell phone companies do not disclose this information to other companies or individuals.

Similarly, governments collect a lot of information on financial standings of people. This is done in the name of performing tax calculations. These records, if mishandled, can clearly reveal extremely confidential information like income, savings, investments etc. Thus it is utmost important that governments ensure that financial information is only accessed by concerned authorities.

Privacy Issues Faced By Retail Stores:

Retail outlets – Real and Online, in pursuit of serving their customers better than their competitors, allow credit services to their regular customers. To effectively run this scheme, they need to record a lot of personal information such as credit card numbers and social security numbers. Misuse of these can cause a lot of damage to the individual. For example misuse of credit cards can even make an individual bankrupt. (Solove , Rotenberg , and Schwartz , 2006)

Not only it is important information like credit card number that is to be kept concealed, even information like address and phone numbers are important. This if leaked out can be used by spammers and junk mailers. Already people are facing this issue.

A lot of regulations are imposed by law-enforcing agencies upon retailers to ensure that they handle the personal information appropriately. For example the Retail Council of Canada has established a comprehensive privacy policy on what information is collected at retail stores, how it is collected, how it is used and what should be done to protect it . (Holtzman, 2006)

This is not just the duty of retail stores , etc to protect and individual personal information but the individuals are also at the same time responsible for protecting their own person information that can have the potential to be used in illegal activities . Individuals should give only limited and relevant information to the retail stores in order to protect their privacy . Moreover a go through on the copy of retailers privacy policy can also be helpful to find out what information can be leaked out from the retail store or to find out which information they should not give out to the stores .

Privacy Issues Faced by Social Networking Websites like ‘Face book’:

Social networking sites are new dimension of internet these days. Their aim is to connect an individual with all his friends and colleagues with just a click. Also they help an individual meet new people and make new acquaintances. With the busy and fast running life of today these sites have become enormous hits. However, these sites are huge repositories of information relating individuals all across the globe. And when there is information there is the risk of privacy being breached. Thus the need for a privacy policy arises in this case too. Most websites ensure that the information is maintained on computers that are safe from unauthorized access. Moreover they also need to ensure that there are no leakages of information while it is being transmitted from the server to the user or vice-versa. (Atwan , Lushing, and Andrews, 2008)

The ‘Face book’ has two core privacy principles. First, it gives choice to its users to put in whatever information they want. And individuals can control who can see how much information. Second, it aims to make sharing of information easier and less time consuming.  However, the website does reveal that the user information will be revealed to the third parties. by stating that the information in the profiles can be used by the third party without indentifying the name of that individual.

Privacy Issues Faced by Organizations:

Organizations, both public and private collect and maintain a lot of information on their customers. Customer Information can have several uses that can be very valuable especially for organizations. Some of the benefits of having customer information is that it can help learn the needs and wants of their customers – potential and current. It can be used to more efficiently offer their products to customers and also , the customer information can be used to predict the future demand of the company’s product and future cash flow . Like at all the other sources, this information is equally likely to be misused and individual’s privacy will be breached.

The best way to regulate organization’s privacy is at government level. People expect government to formulate laws that will ensure that organizations do not breach away with consumer’s privacy. (Solove , Rotenberg , and Schwartz , 2005) Another way is to regulate through the market regulation. In this the business that is successful in retaining the customer information private and confidential becomes successful whereas business that do not offer satisfactory privacy guarantees to the customer are ignored and put out of the business.

Privacy Issues faced by Hospitals

The question is why privacy is important in hospitals. Privacy in hospitals is needed to ensure that personal health information can be shared for core health activities, with safeguards to limit the inappropriate use and sharing of patient data.  Any deviation from this law will hurt the hospitals reputation as patients will stop trusting hospital to safeguard their sensitive personal records. Therefore hospitals are required to take critical steps towards building security and privacy of healthcare providers, patients and all others involved in health care. (Gaston , 2003)

Some steps taken towards safeguarding patient’s privacy include:
1. Patient’s written and explicit authorization is required to disclose personal health information to employers. The authorization must include what information is to be shared, person allowed to use data and for what purpose information is to be retrieved.
2. However, hospital administration is permitted to utilize patient’s personal health information for treatment.
3. If the patient is present, the hospital may disclose medical information to such people if the patient does not object. If the patient objects to disclosure the hospital may determine whether the disclosure is in the best interests of the patient. The professional judgment of the health care provider should inform any decision regarding disclosure of protected health information to a family member or friend who is involved in the patient’s care, as these disclosures are permitted, but not mandatory.
4. Disclosure of protected health information has always been permitted for purposes such as national security, public health monitoring, and law enforcement, as well as many others.
5. The health information custodian’s policies must be readily available to patients and should include information about practices and procedures.
The right of privacy and consent are essential to the trust and integrity of the patient-physician relationship.

Privacy Issues in Banks – Real and Online .

Customer’s personal privacy is extremely important to banks. Bank should be committed to protecting customer information. Banks should not share nonpublic information about customers with third parties without their consent.  Information banks should collect from customers should help serve only the financial needs of customers, provide customer service, offer new products or services, and fulfill legal and regulatory requirements. These types of non-public, personal information may include:
1. Information we received loan or insurance applications or other forms.
2. Information about transactions with affiliates of banks.
3. Information from outside companies.
Banks should collect only the information necessary to deliver quality products and services to customers.
All of internet sensitive information of customers should be protected by data encryption technology. (Luna , 2004)


1. Alba, Jason , Stay , Jesse , Lorenzen , Lee & Scoble , Robert (2008). I’m on Facebook–Now What???: How to Get Personal, Business, and Professional Value from Faceboo. Happy About.
2. Alderman, Ellen , & Kennedy , Caroline (1997). The Right to Privacy.Vintage .
3. Atwan , Greg , Lushing, Evan , & Andrews, Aurora (2008). The Facebook Book . Abrams Image.
4. Chander , Anupam , Gelman , Lauren , & Radin , Margaret Jane (2008). Securing Privacy in the Internet Age . Stanford Law Books.
5. Freeman, Lee, & Peace, A. Graham (2004). Information Ethics: Privacy and Intellectual Propert.Information Science Publishing .
6. Gaston , S. J. (2003). Protecting Your Money, Privacy and Identity from Theft, Loss and Misuse. Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants .
7. Holtzman, David H. (2006). Privacy Lost: How Technology Is Endangering Your Privacy. Jossey-Bass.
8. Levine, John R. , Church , Ray Everett-, & Stebben , Gregg (2002). Internet Privacy for Dummies . For Dummies .
9. Luna , J.J. (2004). How to Be Invisible: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Personal Privacy, Your Assets, and Your Life. Thomas Dunne Books.
10. Solove , Daniel J. , Rotenberg , Marc , & Schwartz , Paul M. (2006). Privacy, Information And Technology. Aspen Publishers.
11. Solove , Daniel J. , Rotenberg , Marc , & Schwartz , Paul M. (2005). Information Privacy Law. Aspen Publishers.

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