The Digital Media Project



Martin Springer


TRU #12 of privacy





Martin Springer

Affiliation/additional information:

Active Contributor, Luebeck, Germany

Date submitted:







Name of TRU

TRU of privacy


Summary description of TRU

Privacy involves three basic aspects:

  • Autonomy: the capacity of members of society to function as individuals, uncoerced and with privacy.
  • Intrusion: one should be free from government surveillance with a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • Informational privacy: individuals have the right to limit their personal domain by denying access of their personal information to others, or to limit how much personal information they are obligated to give to others. [1]


Use records of TRU

In the "analogue world", individuals were more or less able to control the access to their personal information:

  • Appeareances in the public were separated by space and time
  • The collection of information about individuals required physical interaction
  • Only visible and audible information was collected by surveillance tools
  • Only out-of-ordinary events were collected
  • Collections of personal information were separated
With the digitalization of the world, individuals are losing their ability to control personal information:
  • The public appeareance of individuals on the Internet reveals more details about preferences, interests and location
  • The manner to collect information about individuals becomes invisible
  • New electrical and digital surveillance tools collect more detailed and precise data
  • Routine events are collected
  • Collections of personal information are centralised in databases and can be accessed on-line [2]


Nature of TRU

Supported by law (e.g. 4th Amendment, US Privacy Act of 1974 [3], EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC [4]). After 9-11-2001, worldwide privacy and civil liberty policies have changed ([5], [6]).


Benefits of TRU

"A free and democratic society requires respect for the autonomy of individuals, and limits on the power of both state and private organisations to intrude on that autonomy". [7]


Possible digital support

  • Machine readable privacy policies



  • Anonymity and Pseudonymity: the user shall be able to hide or only selectively disclose personal information
  • Secure Communications and Storage: the user shall be ensured that no unauthorized third party gets access to her information, either in transit or in storage
  • Transparency: the user shall be informed about the amount of her personal information under surveillance at any point in time; and why and how this is done
  • Trust: the user shall be able to find out whom she can trust to keep their promises, and who can help her in case of conflicts [8]



[1] - Personal Privacy Protection Versus Your Right To Know... - ESRI/ National Research Council
[2] - Personal Privacy in Ubiquitous Computing, Marc Langheinrich ETH Zürich, Switzerland
[3] - The Privacy Act of 1974
[4] - Directive 95/46/EC
[5] - Privacy and Human Rights 2003 - Beyond September 11, 2001
[6] -
[7] - Australian Privacy Charter, 1994
[8] - Privacy-aware Ubiquitous Systems, Marc Langheinrich ETH Zürich, Switzerland