The Privacy Landscape
A phrase that is quite common today is, “Data is the new oil.” Many companies have recognized the truth of this analogy and are racing to acquire as much of it as possible. There is money to be made by being among those who are able to extract value from this vast and growing “natural resource.” Data is easy to come by, difficult to mine and hazardous to handle. The thing that makes working with data dangerous is “privacy.”
Privacy is complicated. There are numerous frameworks providing an array of standards enforced by state laws (such as MA 201 or SB 1386), federal laws (such as HIPAA, ECPA, FCRA, FACTA, GINA, GLBA, VPPA and more) and international laws for at least 43 different countries. Additionally, the notion of what constitutes private data changes with geography or jurisdiction. Furthermore, we observe examples in case law where the central issue of liability wasn’t that the data itself was particularly sensitive but rather how it was used.
In short, “privacy” depends on where you’re standing, what type of data you have and what you intend to do with it.
Avoid the Briars
Adding to the confusion of the regulatory briars is the unfortunate and misguided rhetoric often echoed in the media. “Society has evolved away from the social norm of privacy.” “Privacy is dead.” “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” While those espousing this rhetoric may indeed be loud, they are decidedly misinformed.
Mining the Gems
“Privacy” is more than a desire to keep secrets. Privacy is the unified collection of smaller elements that include autonomy, agency, self-determination, solitude, personal reserve, dignity and intimacy – elements that are fundamental to human existence. Privacy is the gemstone produced by the shape, angle and even imperfections of these various facets creating the kaleidoscope of colors and views with which we attempt to define it.
Paving the Paths
Reynolds Privacy recognizes that privacy is more than secrets. Privacy is about being informed on the collection, use and protection of data that identifies and defines us. It’s about requiring our consent and having recourse to affect change when we disapprove of how a company or entity in possession of our data acts upon that data. It’s about the security needed to adequately protect sensitive data. It’s about corporate accountability and transparency. In short, privacy is not about secrets, it’s about control.
As the significance of data security continues to grow and garner greater visibility among the companies, countries, citizens, shareholders and regulators of the world, it affords an even greater prominence for an informed discussion of the risks associated with protecting sensitive data and providing a cogent response to those that would seek our guidance on matters of data protection and privacy.