Re: [ietf-privacy] Is there an official working definition for Privacy Online?

David Singer <> Thu, 05 May 2016 20:39 UTC

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From: David Singer <>
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Date: Thu, 05 May 2016 13:39:02 -0700
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To: Robin Wilton <>
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Subject: Re: [ietf-privacy] Is there an official working definition for Privacy Online?
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> On May 5, 2016, at 1:30 , Robin Wilton <> wrote:
> The Internet Society has been using a definition of privacy for a number of years now, and I still think it's a good one. Incidentally, I think Dave has set a high bar with his request; privacy is a social construct that covers many aspects of the way people interact with each other... it's always going to be hard to reduce that to a single, precise technical definition, the way you might do for, say, "gross domestic product", or "mortgage". 
> Privacy can also be a subjective thing (for instance, some people think it's important to draw their curtains in the evening - others don't). That subjectivity makes privacy a highly contextual thing, which, again, may make it hard to reduce to a single precise formula. But I digress... Here's that definition:
> Privacy is about retaining the ability to disclose data consensually, and with expectations regarding the context and scope of sharing.

Hm, I think it’s good, but...So, if I appear in public, I have disclosed my presence in a particular location and time; but my expectations on people recording me with video cameras, writing down what I do for posterity and the internet, and so on, is part of the ‘expectations’?  If so, we’re back in the morass, I fear — what is ‘expected’ is at least cultural and often personal.

> I wrote a blog post drawing out the implications of each part of that definition, here:
> The result still may not be the precise technical definition Dave is looking for…

Actually, I think we need to continue to work with the vagueness; looking now for a definition is not helpful.  Looking for clarity on the concepts and aspects — “what the rules are” — I think is amenable to at least significant improvement.

David Singer
Manager, Software Standards, Apple Inc.