Why Privacy Matters

I have a short piece on privacy in the Fall/Winter 2010 newsletter of the Canadian Centre for Ethics & Corporate Policy.

In the intro to the article, I delve into just what privacy is, why it is that we value it in the first place:

Privacy, at its most basic, is about having a sphere of personal control from which others can be excluded at will. It refers not just to information, though that is certainly a key component of privacy. Privacy is also about freedom of action, action that is not hindered by the prying eyes of neighbours, governments, or corporations. The more such freedom we have, the more privacy we have….

In the second half, I discuss why it is that companies should think carefully about privacy. I note that it’s not just a question of protecting customers’ private information, though that is certainly important. It’s also worth considering that companies themselves tend to value privacy, and they ought to keep that in mind:

…when a company asserts its own privacy rights, it is in at least some cases thereby protecting the privacy of its clients, along with the rights of its shareholders. But the key point here is that when companies think about the value of privacy, they would do well to consider how much privacy also matters to them.

The newsletter also includes a commentary on privacy from Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner, a piece on privacy concerns in the hiring process, by lawyer Avner Levin, and an article on privacy law more generally by lawyer Christine Lonsdale. You can download the entire newsletter here: Management Ethics Newsletter.

2 comments so far

  1. Dan Wheeler on

    I was hoping this was a post on why PIRACY matters. Now I’m going to do a search to find anything you’ve written on piracy in the past.

    What are your thoughts on privacy extending to web analytics/tracking visitors?

  2. Chris MacDonald on


    I haven’t thought much about web analytics / tracking.

    My only immediate thought is this, a line I think I’ve used in blog entries: If your entire business model depends on the public not understanding your business model, you’re probably not in an ethical business.


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