Saturday 8 June 2013

What is Privacy all about? ... its about 'not being surprised'

Privacy is one of those subjective topics that is hard to talk about, because everybody seems to have a different definition of it (which depends on culture, personal experience, current/past jobs and state-of-mind.

Recently I found a Seth Godin post (while reading Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? in the toilet) which really provided a great explanation of privacy.

The post happens to also be online (People don't truly care about privacy) and here is the key part:

That is a great way to explain Privacy

... its all about being surprised!

I.e. it’s all about the individual understanding of what is happening with the personal data provided and who has access to it.

For example, when I’m writing this blog post or post something on the owasp wiki, I am aware that my words and ideas are public, so I’m not going to be surprised if anybody can uses it.

But if I send a private email to somebody (specially one staring with ‘…in confidence…’) then I will be surprised if others (from individuals, to companies, to governments) have access to it.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say on Privacy:


This is a much stronger definition of privacy and doesn’t take into account the shades-of-gray that the ‘being surprised’ definition has.

Here are Seth's posts on Privacy and being surprised: