"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
- Article 12, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and Article 17, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
Privacy is the interest that individuals have in sustaining a 'personal space', free from interference by other people and organisations. Privacy can be broken down into many areas, such as privacy of the person; privacy of personal behaviour; privacy of personal communication; or privacy of personal data. Privacy laws, while significant in that they protect the private affairs of individuals, should not be misused to deny discussion of matters of public concern.
As R. Clarke suggests, privacy is important for a variety of reasons.
- Psychologically: "people need private space. This applies in public as well as behind closed doors and drawn curtains;"
- Sociologically: "people need to be free to behave, and to associate with others, subject to broad social mores, but without the continual threat of being observed;"
- Economically: "people need to be free to innovate. International competition is fierce, so countries with high labour-costs need to be clever if they want to sustain their standard-of-living. And cleverness has to be continually reinvented;"
- Politically: "people need to be free to think, and argue, and act. Surveillance chills behaviour and speech, and threatens democracy."