The fundamental right to privacy

In the coming weeks, privacy advisor Mathijs Hummel will discuss the impact of the coronavirus on the fundamental right to privacy in a five-part series of articles. In this introduction, he discusses the context of that series and explains his personal motivation for sharing his knowledge.

Posted on March 31, 2020 in Blog.

Impact of the coronacrisis

The corona crisis is turning the world upside down. To prevent further spread of the virus as much as possible, we must drastically and acutely adjust our lifestyle. Not only in the personal sphere, but also in a business and economic sense. Technology connects us and helps us keep in touch with our friends, despite social distancing. In addition, technology helps us in the fight against the virus and the search for a vaccine. These are important and noble goals, but the use of technology also has a downside. The current crisis will have a major impact on our lives and our future. In any case, this affects our opinion on privacy.

The impact on privacy

In order to map out what the current crisis means for the protection of our privacy, I will be sharing our knowledge and vision of privacy in the coming weeks. In this five part series, I, with input from my colleagues, give a brief overview of the history and formation of privacy. I also deal with important changes in the field and the effect on people (and by extension on the organisations they work for).

Depending on the theme and subject, my colleagues give their views on the subject from different backgrounds. We involve lawyers and business experts, but also social engineers and ethical hackers. The opinions in the blogs are intended to put the current world situation in perspective. The topics that I will discuss relate to the emergence of privacy as we know it today, the extensive (government) surveillance, manipulation through social media and the use of apps and drones to ensure measures such as a lockdown or social distancing are maintained.

Other use of resources

In the current crisis, we use different means than we have been used to so far. With the use of drones, apps and location data, we try to limit and monitor contamination and maintain lockdowns. In addition, both healthcare institutions and aid organizations demand a relaxation of rules and obligations to facilitate and promote national (or international) data exchange.

This changes the effect of privacy on us as humans, possibly in favour of our own health and that of others or in favour of national security. However, this also entails new or different risks. We will notice that risks shift and the impact is permanent after this crisis. For example, when people work from home en-masse, the risks for organizations also change. Moreover, the consequences are becoming increasingly visible.

Recht to privacy

In the coming months we will see shifts from politics, business, but also from society that affect us all in our fundamental rights. Concepts such as privacy, the right to health and thus the importance and perception of (cyber) security are changing. The importance of privacy protection, but also the requirements for sound security of organizations and ‘smart’ products, is growing and is under increasing pressure. In the current crisis much is permissible, but how do we feel about it when our lives - as far as possible - are normalized again?

This raises many questions for me, both personally: “How important do I find my own privacy in relation to my health, or the health of my family or friends?” Also professionally: “To what extent does our perception of and opinion about privacy change as a result of COVID-19?”

There is no doubt that privacy is important. But ultimately privacy is, and remains, subjective; the importance and value differs per individual and per situation. Personally, I consider the right to privacy to be one of the most essential human rights in a modern digital society. In the coming weeks I will take you through my vision and way of thinking about the impact of the corona crisis on that fundamental human right.

Articles overview

  • Part 1: Privacy: protecting people?- To indicate the right to privacy, Mathijs starts this series with a blog about the history and the emergence of privacy. In collaboration with colleague Cheryl Haaima, he explains how the right to privacy has become a human and a fundamental right. Read more
Mathijs Hummel

By Mathijs Hummel

Advisory & Assurance

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