Did you know that Hamburg, Germany, has a Data Protection Commissioner? Well neither did I until I read about it a couple days ago. Many German citizens are now apparently concerned that their digital privacy could be at risk. It seems this all started last month when the messaging service WhatsApp announced that it would begin sharing some of its users’ online information with Facebook. The Data Protection Commissioner has ordered Facebook to delete all the information forwarded from WhatsApp on roughly 35 million German users. The basic issue in question is getting permission from WhatsApp’s users before connecting their account to Facebook. This has become the condition set by Hamburg’s Data Protection Commissioner.
I am sure there will be many fascinating debates and legal battles in the future focusing on this issue of digital privacy. I am equally intrigued with the notion of digital privacy. Is this something that is distinct from my basic right to personal privacy in the broadest sense? Or do we forfeit our privacy rights when share personal information on any social media site? My position is that we have the right to control the extent to which our personal information is shared on any online forum. To put it another way, we do have a right to digital privacy.
We are obviously living in a new world of information sharing and communicating in a wide variety of digital and traditional formats. Whatever we wish to share, and how it is shared, should always remain our personal choice.