What is privacy?


Privacy is the ability of an individual to control or withhold personal information from others. 

Others in this meaning could be other people, but also businesses or governments. 

By the way, the word privacy came from the Latin word ‘privatus’, which means set apart of the public.

It is a human right. It is usually not considered a fundamental right, but it is necessary to protect other fundamental rights.

There are many different types of private data and not all of them bring the same risk to an individual in view, of how dangerous is for them to be leaked to others or completely publicly.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • shopping behavior a shop (both physical and online)
  • browsing behavior on internet
  • information about financial products (banking secrecy)
  • information about political opinions
  • information about sex life
  • copy of passports or signatures
  • health data and medical reports1

Also as you see in this example, not the same data has the same risk. Therefore, privacy regulations usually expect a ‘risk-based approach’. It will be explained in more videos in more detail, but when we simplify it: your shopping history does not need the same level of protection as your health data.

Why is privacy so important?

Personal autonomy & individuality

Having privacy allows people to think, communicate, and make decisions without influence or interference from others.

Freedom of thought and expression

When people know they are not being watched or judged, they are likely to explore new ideas, discuss controversial topics, and express unconventional opinions.


Maintaining privacy helps protect against identity theft, financial fraud, and other forms of cybercrime. Keeping personal – especially sensitive information – not publicly available is one of the basic safety behaviors to prevent fraud.
Even if it is not the best security standard, providing basic information together with more sensitive (such as a social security number) could be used to ask for a loan or to open a bank account.


Privacy is important in a democratic society to ensure freedom from government surveillance. It allows citizens to participate in political activities like voting or protesting without fear of retribution
Imagine, if your employer is school would be informed if you attended some protest.

Dignity and Respect

Privacy is often tied to dignity and respect for individuals. Respecting someone’s privacy is acknowledging their right to control their personal space and information.

Social Relationships

Privacy allows individuals to create boundaries and manage relationships on their own terms. It’s essential for trust and healthy relationships, whether personal or professional.
Without privacy, you would not be able to even surprise your partner with a birthday gift.

In summary, privacy is a foundational element of a free and open society. It empowers individuals, supports democratic principles, and fosters a culture of respect and innovation.

  1. One comment regarding health data. Some of this data is probably not so sensitive – a broken leg is not so secret, right? But what about a history of mental illnesses? Or STIs? Therefore, all health data are considered at the highest level. ↩︎






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