What is privacy?
Privacy is a fundamental human right that is acknowledged in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child . Privacy is necessary to fulfil other rights, such as freedom of association, thought and expression, or freedom from discrimination .
Because individuals and countries have different ideas about privacy, it is not easy to define it. However, most people agree that privacy involves the right :
to be free from interference and intrusion,
to associate freely with whom you want,
to be able to control who can see or use information about you.
Privacy can refer to physical privacy (e.g., Secretively videoing people in their homes or offices or using a bugging device to record someone’s conversations) as well as information privacy, i.e., how your personal information - i.e., who we are, what we do and what we believe - is handled and protected . Although privacy is a fundamental right, it isn’t absolute. This means that private information about a person may be disclosed in exceptional circumstances, for instance, if a police investigation requires it. In these exceptional situations, strict rules apply .
What types of data about children are frequently being collected?
More data about children is collected than ever before. For many, their digital footprints begin from the moment they are born or even earlier (e.g., through ultrasound pictures which are shared on social media) and continue growing exponentially throughout childhood. Children’s digital footprint is not just a consequence of parents and children sharing information on social media. As a matter of fact, there are many ways in which children’s data is collected, for instance, through smart toys, speakers and other connected or monitoring devices commonly used by families at home (e.g., location tracking watches) .
Children’s data is also given away when children use essential public services such as at schools or hospitals. Furthermore, children and young people use online platforms to socialize, play, learn, personal expression and for many other reasons. They also increasingly use self-track apps which allow them to get personalised insights about many aspects of their lives, including their physical and mental health (e.g., GPS running watches, apps to track fitness activity, health, or sleep behaviour, etc.). This means that “children are being “datafied” – not just via social media, but in many aspects of their lives” [4, p.3].
Arguably, technological developments such as the Internet of Things (IoT) have important advantages, and smart devices can help people make better choices. However, they also come with new privacy challenges, especially as more and more households increasingly adopt connected devices . The increased use of IoT means that more data about users, including children, is collected, and raises important questions such as which users’ data is actually being collected. Is this data securely stored? And how will this data be ultimately used? . For instance, is data from a fitness tracker only used to improve the user’s physical condition or can this data be shared in the future with third parties such as insurance companies or private hospitals?
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 20, 1989, https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/convention-rights-child
Australian Government. Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. What is privacy? Retrieved [27/11/22], from https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/your-privacy-rights/what-is-privacy