Origins of Privacy

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Privacy has been with humankind since the beginning. Historians often argue that the individual yearning for privacy has only recently been articulated and manifested. In many ways, privacy has always been the default state of being for much of human history. The amount of effort needed to infringe on your privacy becomes exponentially more the further back in time you look. That is to say, technology makes our lives easier, but it also makes thin the barrier between our private selves and those that wish to take advantage of our private selves.

History of Privacy

Formation of the Privacy Concept

Most historians agree that the first written mentions of privacy come from Aristotle and were developed by oration and practice over millennia until community practice was formalized into governmental law. Others believe that privacy as a concept predates even the first spoken mention, let alone the first written mention. Studies of tribal societies have affirmed that the majority of humans seem to have an innate desire for (sexual) privacy. It is only after the switch from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies that humanity started to trade privacy for convenience. Thus began the age old tug-of-war between privacy and technology (convenience).

“Privacy was, and will always be, the first line of defense for mankind against predator. Whether one hides in a tree, hides in a cave, hides under water, or hides behind cryptography, protecting one’s privacy was and is the only way to attain freedom.” - Andrew Lee, Founder of Private Internet Access

Since privacy's rise, the legal concept of a right to privacy has made its way to all corners of the world to some extent. In most places, the concept has solidified into legal or constitutional protections; however, even in jurisdictions with clear laws on the books, privacy rights violations still occur.

First Mentions of a Legal Right to Privacy

One of the first written mentions of the modern concept of privacy comes from the Harvard Law Review. Samuel D. Warren and Louis Dembitz Brandeis wrote a law review article that is largely recognized as the literary beginning of the right to privacy movement. The eponymous article was title "The Right to Privacy."

"The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world . . . ." - Louis D. Brandeis, SCOTUS

Privacy on the Internet

“The internet is not private.” - Jack Cator, Founder of Hide My Ass

Now that the world has started advancing into the Internet Age, privacy has new mountainous obstacles to overcome. Some of the threats are the same as before. Many of the same parties and entities wish to do you harm. But be warned that the techniques and processes used by these parties and entities have evolved spectacularly with time. The information sharing capabilities of the Internet have given rise to new questions about privacy rights regarding identifying bits of personal information in the hands of corporations and governments. As a result, concepts such as the Right to Be Forgotten have come out of areas such as Europe.

“Individuals want to be left alone and to exercise some control over how information about them is used.” - David Flaherty, Professor