Information Security – Privacy Overview

Looking up the definition of “privacy”, we find in the Oxford dictionary:  “The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people” as well as “The state of being free from public attention.”  In the digital world, privacy is a crucial part of information security. Privacy is often used in the context of Internet privacy, but it is relevant to almost all digital information–from text messages to credit card transactions to smart utility meters giving consumers feedback on their gas and water usage. Privacy refers to keeping information safe and protected from unauthorized access in order to protect the information itself or, in some cases, related information.

Confidentiality and anonymity are related to privacy and are also crucial aspects in information security.  Confidentiality ensures that personal information is available only to those with authorized access and consent. Users of digital resources, such as the Internet, are often asked to disclose personal information and will often do so knowingly for the purpose of increased convenience.  Webster defines anonymity as “the state of being unknown to most people.”  In a bathroom, we want privacy, not anonymity. A whistle blower reporting abuse of power, on the other hand, wants anonymity: one wants people to know the information without the source being known.

One aspect of controlling your privacy is to be aware of how information is used and who has access to it. This is not always straightforward. The vast collections of anonymous data and the ability to mine, fuse, and reconstruct information from data has shown that publicly available anonymous data can be used to reconstruct private information and violate expected confidentiality. Here are some examples of how information can be used.

Financial Transactions
Browsing Habits
Protecting Your Privacy