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Friday, April 29, 2005 | This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one.
Privacy has always been an issue. In ancient cultures, the ability to run off from the tribe, hide out in a cave and not participate was considered “privacy.” Fast forward to the landmark 1890 Harvard Law Review article written by future Supreme Court Justice Brandeis and his law partner Warren. It redefined privacy as “the right to be left alone.” Now fully engaged in the 21st century, the question becomes what is our “expectation of privacy”?
Two San Diego-based organizations are helping shape the answers to these questions on a national scale – Privacy Solutions, Inc. and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. One focuses on the business side and the other on the consumer perspective.
Terrorism, computer hacking, identity theft, consumer privacy rights and legislation directly affect the way all businesses gather, store and retrieve information. Finding the delicate balance between keeping access open to public data and respecting privacy and information security is the professional territory of Darity Wesley, CEO of La Mesa-based Privacy Solutions, Inc.
This 20-year veteran of the public record and real estate information industry is blazing a trail through the volatile modern security wilderness laced with potential liability landmines. She educates businesses nationwide how to preserve their assets by protecting consumer privacy through contracts, policies and procedures.
“Information is the life blood of commerce and it is urgent we keep it circulating. Businesses need to respond to consumers’ concerns about the protection of their personally identifiable information,” says Wesley. “At the end of the day, when we get home and slip out of our business best into comfy clothes, we are all consumers.”
On the consumer side, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse got its start educating consumers about inside telephone wiring and Caller ID. In a few short years, director Beth Givens has guided the PRC to become the go-to source for consumer privacy information nationally.
PRC has been instrumental in getting state and federal laws enacted that protect individual’s privacy rights. It provides information on topics such as telemarketing, employee background checks, financial and Internet privacy, workplace monitoring, radio frequency ID tags, credit reporting, debt collection, Social Security numbers, government records, wireless communications and many other consumer privacy-related topics.
What are privacy-related topics? Wesley teaches there are four general areas of privacy, each with their own expectations: bodily, territorial, communications and information.
– Bodily Privacy: We expect our bodies to be private, unless we as a society have agreed otherwise. For example, if we are in an airport security line and the metal detector beeps as we walk through the scanner, we expect to be searched.
– Territorial Privacy: We expect our homes to be private. However, when we walk into a convenience store or up to the ATM, we know or should know that we are being videotaped.
– Communication Privacy: We expect our personal conversations to be private. But our expectation should change if we are on a cell phone in a shopping mall instead of a land line at home. We expect that our letters signed, sealed and mailed with the U.S. Postal Service are private but our expectation should change, when sending e-mail. It is not in any way “private.”
– Information Privacy: We expect our financial information at the bank and the health concerns we discuss with our doctors to be confidential. However, anyone can watch our workout routines at the gym. We expect that a number of people will know what we buy at the store since there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when making purchases.
Jordana Beebe, PRC communications director feels good about the state of our regional privacy.
“I think San Diego does very well in terms of protecting its residents’ right to privacy,” she said. “There are terrific organizations located here and we have top notch law enforcement and consumer protection agencies that are sensitive to privacy issues.”
She does find that with the rapid advancement in new technologies that laws and consumer protection measures simply haven’t kept pace.
“As the backlash of our fast-paced society comes to light and more people’s privacy is compromised in one way or another, I suspect we’ll see regulations finally catching up.”
Cristina Smith (