A culture of respecting right to privacy
A person providing with the statistics of his personal information will have to be informed that his data is being collected, his information is held by whom and for what reasons the data will be used. There should be limits to the collection of personal data and any such data should be obtained by lawful and fair means and of course with the knowledge or consent of the data holder. This sense has been prevailing in our civilized society.
Circulating unfounded rumors, hunches and third-party hearsay or just gossips about an individual is not permissible for the sake of protecting one's personal dignity on privacy reason. It is important to maintain appropriate confidentiality and individual privacy while exercising transparency.
Many countries including Bangladesh give citizen rights to privacy in the constitutions. Article 43(b) of the constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh enshrined that every citizen shall have the right to the privacy of his correspondence and other means of communication. The enactment of the Digital Security Act 2018 has given legal protection for any infringement of personal data or for protection of identity information. Section 26 of the Digital Security Act 2018 reveals that any unauthorized use of collection, taking possession, and supplying or using anyone's identity information has been defined as an offense and stringent punishment measures also outlined in the act. Unauthorized use of information such as identify of a person, his/her name, address, date of birth, mother's name, father's name, signature, national identity, birth and death registration number, fingerprint, passport number, bank account number, driver's license, e-TIN number, electronic or digital signature, username, credit or debit card number, voice print, retina image, iris image, DNA profile, security-related questions or any other identification will be treated as punishable offence.
As per section 7 of the Right to Information Act, 2009, any authority is not bound to disclose any information which may reveal the privacy of one's life any information which may endanger life or physical safety of any person or offend the privacy of the personal life of an individual. Section 54 of the ICT Act2006 provides that any person, without any permission of the owner, makes access or secures access to his "computer, computer system or computer network, downloads copies or extracts any data, or information from such computer, then the above activities shall be treated as offences of the said person. Legislation in respect of protecting individuals' right to privacy dictates authorization or consent from the individuals whose identity information/data will be used.
Many countries have broad privacy laws. Australia's Privacy Act 1988, Argentina's Law for the Protection of Personal Data of 2000, Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act 2000, and Japan's Personal Information Protection Law 2003 are the best examples for protecting privacy right of their citizens.
Confidentiality is also critical as well in situations such as investigations or some other official or social actions. If information is available in public during investigation or disciplinary actions or preparing question paper for the public examinations or assessing answer script for result, the whole process will be jeopardized. We must know and understand demarcation line between the arena of confidentiality and public domain.
Preparation of question paper or assessing answer script or writing verdict by a judge must not the area of public domain. If process is disclosed, the test of outcome will be sour and whole thing will be useless. If verdict of a court is known to all before pronouncing it, if result of the examination is disclosed before publish, if question paper is licked out before examination, people will not accept the end result. Purity of end result will lose its sanctity. Information in the public domain is more acceptable and considered as pure when private domain maintains high confidentiality and secrecy to produce quality and trustworthy information for the public domain. Maintaining confidentiality of information for an individual is so important for a civilized society that without protecting it, an individual may lose his personal dignity. In these circumstances, everywhere in the world media, civil society, public entity has been trying to establish a culture of protecting privacy of information for an individual.
Today if someone's privacy is breached, day after tomorrow, another person who did this, may face the same situation. Thus, a society should establish a culture of respecting each other's privacy. The information needs to be shared only with those who need to know and whose contribution is necessary to resolve the issue. Dignity is a human right and is important to every individual. People feel valued, confident, comfortable and able to make decisions for themselves if their dignity is protected and valued. If privacy is not protected, dignity may also be endangered.
Dignity applies equally to those who have capacity to influence society and to those who lack it. Everyone has equal worth as human beings and must be treated as if they are able to feel, think and behave in relation to their own worth or value. Privacy of personal information and dignity is highly hampered when unauthorized information is disclosed to the public sphere. Some patients may not wish to expose their bodies to doctors of the opposite sex. Religious beliefs may influence individual views about modesty. Many health care people know well how to respect patient's wishes. Lawyers keep their client's information safe and confidential, sharing it only with those involved in their cases as necessary. Any sharing of information must be legitimate and with consent. Many religions strongly dictate to maintain confidentiality and privacy of a person with due honor.
Over the last decades, government made significant strides towards increasing openness through enacting the Right to Information Act 2009, National Integrity Strategy 2014, Whistle Blower Protection Act 2011, Citizen's Charter, government websites and internet connection, public hearing and publications of yearly books of every office. The government created a framework so that citizen can receive trusted official information from public domain. Now, the advent of 5G systems, applications for artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things, big data, block chain need highest data security. The Government has been proactively pursuing the digital penetration of all government portals through 45,000 websites and 5,000 Digital Centers. Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, present government already achieved the status of a middle-income country, accomplishing the SDG goals by 2030, becoming a developed country by 2041 and executing a delta plan by 2100.
Civil society, media and people at large know well difference between public domain and private domain of information in a digital age. For making a better civilized and peaceful society, the privacy of personal information of an individual according to our legal mandate needs to be maintained at the highest standard while enjoying openness, transparency and free flow of information form the public domain.
Dr Md Shamsul Arefin is a
former Senior Secretary