Privacy Glossary: A – C

Part of assignment one for Privacy directed readings class.

3rd party doctrine If private information is made available to a third party, that party is not liable for information that was collected improperly. For example, an individual gathers information through an illegal recording. If that recording is made available to a publisher, the publisher would not be liable for the information acquired improperly.
Access control A method of protecting information is through control of who has access to information. If the press is allowed to see information about certain criminal proceedings, it may be required to maintain confidentiality. Without controls on the manner of access, publication of such information would be protected by the First Amendment.
Aggregation The processing of information so that unrelated pieces of information can be combined to reveal additional information. For example, allowing a school to combine records with the public arrest records and FBI documentation could give information that knowing one of these items alone would not release. The public availability of this information allows the justification that combining them is not doing anything improper. Aggregation allows the creation of digital profiles that are not complete and may be inaccurate.

However, some forms of aggregation are beneficial such as the ability of credit agencies to collect disparate financial information allows for creditors to have more confidence in providing loans.

Appropriation The use of information about a person in ways that the person did not approve. For example, using a person’s picture in advertising copy without their permission. It can give someone unwanted notoriety and affect the presentation of themselves to others.
Autonomous The individual is autonomous when he or she is able to make decisions without the coercion of the state or others. The decisions and actions that one takes is important and some privacy problems can threaten the individual’s right to make his own decisions.
Balancing In privacy, often the value of protecting an items privacy and its cost are not commensurable. One might be in emotional terms while the other might be a value in public safety. Since they cannot be compared directly, a balancing is necessary to decide which predominates and to what extent. Privacy issues are rarely simple so that the issues to be considered and balanced can be complex and not deduced trivially. Law has trouble with the concept of balance because it cannot easily be reduced to a simple formula.
Balancing freedom of press The desire to prevent disclosure of private information conflicts with the freedom of the press guaranteed by the U.S. constitution. The courts generally side with the press as far as what is permissible. Some information like explicit personal sexual content may be protected, but many situations allow the press to publish sensitive information.
Blackmail The use of information to coerce one to do other undesirable behaviors such as give money due to the demands of another. Through blackmail, a person’s safety is diminished. In addition, blackmail creates a disruptive power dynamic.
Breach of confidentiality The use of information given in confidence to other entities. Some confidences are protected by law such as between a lawyer and client and between a doctor and patient. Other confidences are informal and may not be protected by law. Through a breach of confidence, injury can be caused through the use of information in ways that are harmful to the source of the confidence.
Censoring The prohibition of information from being created, distributed or published. Usually censoring is content based and legislation restricting communication receives strict scrutiny to evaluate whether there is an legitimate need for such information to be controlled.
Communication in confidence By being able to communicate without the interference and observation of others, ideas and creativity are possible in ways that the lack of such confidentiality can be harmful. Through the historical sequence, postal mail, telegraphs and telephone conversations have been regarded as confidential. Internet activity is not protected in that way.

In all of these communication technologies, a third party is required to access the information. The secrecy paradigm would imply that privacy of electronic activity records is not protected. However, individual behavior and expectations is that such information is confidential.

Consequences Individual decisions about privacy questions may have unintended consequences. Allow athletes to be drug tested in schools promotes an attitude that one must prove one’s innocence. Preventing disclosure of embarrassing information infringes on the rights of a free press.
Control The ability to determine where information goes, who has access to it, and how to affect that process.
COPPA Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This act affects the collection of information online from children under the age of 13.
Criminal consequences The first barrier to determining the relevance of a privacy violation. Privacy violations that can lead to criminal prosecution are more clearly included in the legal structures and protections