Campaigner for Digital Privacy Rights

The Home Office is the Government department responsible for internal affairs in England and Wales. The purpose of the Home Office is to work with individuals and communities to build a safe, just and tolerant society enhancing opportunities for all and in which rights and responsibilities go hand in hand, and the protection and security of the public are maintained and enhanced. 1 This does not only include issue like immigration and nationality, criminal justice or drugs prevention but also comprises privacy protection issues.

Especially, in the last couple of years privacy has become a hot topic among the people who have made it their business to mind your business. Identity theft, government surveillance programs, and the increased efficiency with which marketers can collect and process data have led to widespread concern. These issues have mainly been caused by the massive growth of the Internet and the corresponding development of electronic commerce that enable the world- wide transfer (via the Internet) of private data.

As a result of this, many people may be reluctant to use the Internet if they are afraid that the personal information transmitted over it can be used in ways that are unexpected or inappropriate. Hence, the pressure is now on for governments to take action in order to safeguard the legitimate privacy interests of Internet users, and it is no surprise that today legislators, media pundits and special interest groups all wrestle with this issue. However in the past, analysis has shown that the response to this issue has been a source of great contention by various governments.

While the US Government has consistently stressed that it will not regulate privacy on the Internet but instead calls upon industry to regulate itself, the European Union and Great Britain, on the other hand, have taken the opposite approach. In the UK, the Home Office is responsible for proposing a digital privacy rights architecture which defends civil rights in the age of information- and communication technology. Digital Privacy Rights is an association in which the Home Office works together with privacy and civil rights organizations in informing decision makers and the public about the upcoming threats to our privacy and civil rights.

2 The Home Office will focus its activities towards developments in the UK and the Council of Europe. 2. Every Human Being has the Right of Privacy In North America, the legal concept of privacy was first explored in an 1890 article in the Harvard Law Review by Professors Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis, who defined privacy as "the right to be let alone. 3 This definition of privacy has evolved over the last century to include at least two strands: the right of individuals to control their physical space (i. e. , their body or home) and to control their personal information.

The latter right is known as "informational privacy" or "informational self-determination. " According to the Privacy Journal, which describes itself as "the longest running publication covering privacy laws," privacy is "the right of individuals to control the collection and use of personal information about themselves. "4 Personal information can be defined generally as identifiable information about an individual. In other words, it is information that serves to identify a person and could include his or her name, address, telephone number, date of birth, race and family status.

It could also include an identifying number that the government has assigned to an individual in exchange for receiving benefits, a person's e-mail address, and a person's medical or financial history. 3. The Importance of Privacy Protection As the Internet grows as a communications and commercial medium, opportunities in electronic commerce continue to expand. Each new area of activity raises new legal issues for legislators and regulators. Surveys show that fear of losing personal privacy is keeping a large number of consumers off the Net, yet people on the Net seem extremely careless with their own personal data.

They worry about strangers getting hold of their personal details, yet they willingly fill out detailed questionnaires in hopes of winning a two-week vacation in Malaga or a 5-percent discount on a political magazine subscription. 5 3. 1 Privacy Protection Tips for Consumers New users of the Internet generally do not realize that every post they make to a newsgroup, every piece of email they send, every World Wide Web page they access, and every item they purchase online could be monitored or logged by some unseen third party.

Right now there is, unfortunately, a lack of awareness about how extensively personal information that has been collected is used on the Net and to whom this information is shared. Most don't realize the vast information sharing chain that exists once a company or governmental agency obtains your personal information. Often, personal information can include name, address, email address, social security numbers, URLs for web sites you've visited, as well as other information that may have been built up about you in a profile.