Right to Privacy

On October 3rd, an article was published by Bloomberg noting that “Yahoo! Inc. was sued over claims that its scanning of e-mail messages for targeted advertising invades users’ privacy in violation of state and federal wiretap laws.” In the wake of the controversy in recent months over issues concerning the violation of privacy online, one question that I have is, ‘Why are so many so shocked?’ A cursory glance at social media sights like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is enough to see that many of the details of our personal lives are anything but private. And if many of us are willing to make personal information available on such a large scale why the outrage over targeted advertising?

Returning to my opening question, I think part of the answer lies in considering Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” One of the significant terms in Article 12 is ‘arbitrary interference’. And I think this really gets at the root of why something like sifting through private emails is objected to-it violates the human right to privacy. Sure there might be plenty of personal information available online. And sure individuals are sometimes indiscreet with the information they share.  But at least where the social networking sights I mentioned are concerned, the information is shared voluntarily.


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