Privacy is an important right [1] and an essential enabler of an individual’s autonomy, dignity, and freedom of expression. Yet, there is no universally agreed definition of privacy. In the online context, however, a common understanding of privacy is the right to determine when, how, and to what extent personal data can be shared with others.

In today’s digital age, information gathering is fast, easy, and less expensive than ever. Progress on a variety of technological fronts contributed to this new world. For instance:

Data storage is cheap, making data accessible online for long periods of time.

  • Data sharing can be fast and distributed, enabling data to easily proliferate.
  • Internet search tools can recognize images, faces, sound, voice, and movement, making it easy to track devices and individuals online over time and across locations.
  • Sophisticated tools are being developed to link, correlate, and aggregate seemingly unrelated data on a vast scale.
  • It is getting ever easier to identify individuals – and classes of individuals – from supposedly anonymized or deidentified data.
  • There are more and more sensors in objects and mobile devices connected to the Internet

Personal data has become a profitable commodity. Every day, users are sharing more personal data online, often unknowingly, and the Internet of Things will increase this dramatically. These factors have the potential to expose personal data and create privacy challenges on a greater scale than ever before.

With this in mind, it is important to encourage the development and application of privacy frameworks that apply an ethical approach to data collection and handling. Frameworks that incorporate, among other things, the concepts of fairness, transparency, participation, accountability, and legitimacy