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There is a common belief that privacy is a phenomenon unique to the modern era, a byproduct of urbanization. In those circumstances, the current erosion of privacy might not be as concerning as it seems at first glance.
However, research disproves the idea that privacy has only emerged recently. Even though the concept of privacy rights or values is relatively new, there are numerous historical and contemporary examples of both privacy standards and privacy-seeking behaviors from all corners of the globe and all time periods. So, when it comes down to it, then what exactly is privacy?
What is Privacy?
The right to privacy refers to the most fundamental and traditional meaning of the phrase “right to be left alone,” which is the assurance that one’s own identity, sentiments, secrets, lifestyle, and intimate activities would remain private and unsullied.
Those who study privacy in the realms of information systems, behavioral research, and public policy believe that understanding the possible evolutionary roots of privacy concerns can shed light on why people have such a hard time with privacy in the modern world. Further, it could provide insight into how to improve the ways in which the digital world and the human expectation of privacy are brought into harmony. To put it another way, learning about the history of the concept of privacy and the rise in its need is essential for grasping its complex nature.
The Origination and Evolution of the Need for Privacy
Since the beginning of civilization, humans have been trying to gain and maintain personal privacy. Ancient Greeks and Chinese alike fretted over where to draw the line between private and public and private spheres. The patriarch of a Roman family, known as the pater familias, might spend the night alone if he so desired by ordering his slaves to relocate their sleeping quarters to a far corner of the home.
Early human societies also paid close attention to personal privacy. For instance, the Mehinacu people of South America built individual homes for themselves kilometers away from the main settlement, so they have some degree of privacy despite living in a communal setting.
Even in the holy texts of ancient monotheistic religions, there is evidence of a drive toward privacy: the Quran forbids spying on one another, the Talmud advises against placing windows overlooking neighbors’ windows, and the biblical story of Adam and Eve concealing their naked bodies after eating the forbidden fruit.
The need for privacy appears to be both culturally distinctive and universal. Cultural norms and practices indeed shift as time passes and as different groups of people come together. Recent historians of privacy offer an explanation for this: privacy concerns may have evolved from other human needs.
According to this evolutionary theory, humankind’s desire for personal space grew out of an innate drive to ensure its safety and well-being. One evolutionary benefit of being able to detect and avoid the presence of others is a “sense of privacy.”.
Privacy in the World Wide Web
Even though people say they care about privacy, they nonetheless have trouble keeping their information secure in public and private networks. An evolutionary theory of privacy can shed light on this conundrum. The senses of humans are not compatible with the modern digital world. Unfortunately, our natural defenses don’t work as well online. You don’t think Facebook is keeping tabs on your every move so they can create a detailed profile of you and use it to sway your opinions. You do not notice the police taking your picture for identification.
While our senses may have helped us avoid privacy breaches in the past, they now work against us when we try to spot threats in the digital realm. Sense cues are lacking online, and what’s worse, malevolent website design components known as “dark patterns” can deceive users into thinking they’re in a safe environment when they’re in danger.
This may explain why privacy notice and consent systems, which have been widely supported by internet businesses and politicians for a long time, have been ineffective. They put the onus of knowledge about privacy dangers on consumers, even though privacy notifications and settings are frequently ineffective or gamed by platforms and technology corporations.
Privacy and the cyber threats
Cyber threats and privacy concerns are increasingly impeding the growth of a trustworthy and reliable global digital society. As a result of the increased vulnerabilities presented by cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) cybercriminals are increasingly focusing their attacks on these two areas. In the same vein, cybercrimes, including identity theft, fraud, personal data leakages, and the like, are constantly developing and posing serious threats to victims’ safety and privacy in both online and offline environments.
Data breaches are increasing annually, and the global cyber threat is evolving at an alarming rate. As of the RiskBased Security report 2019, Data breaches have exposed an alarming 7.9 billion records in the year. This number was 112% higher than the number of compromised records during the same time in 2018 and is still increasing.
In this case, policy and technology must collaborate for innovation and cognitive solutions to combat cyber threats. So, how is technology evolving, and what the future holds?
Cyber security and technology evolution
To deal with cyber threats and prevent further cyberattacks, we need innovative cyber-situational awareness frameworks, risk analysis, and modeling, threat intelligent systems, cyber-threat information-sharing methods, advanced big-data analysis techniques, and cloud-based systems. In addition, new privacy-preserving methods, crypto-privacy mechanisms, identity and eID management systems, trust services, and guidelines are required to safeguard citizens’ privacy without compromising usability.
To deal with cyber threats and prevent further cyberattacks, we need innovative cyber-situational awareness frameworks, risk analysis, and modeling, threat intelligent systems, cyber-threat information-sharing methods, advanced big-data analysis techniques, and cloud-based systems. Moreover, in order to protect online privacy, a user shouldn’t have to sacrifice usability. It requires developing novel privacy-preserving techniques, identity and eID management systems, trust services, crypto-privacy mechanisms, and recommendations.
With the need for advanced technology to decrease the increasing scale of the cyber threat, the International Data Corporation has forecasted a massive $133.7 billion in spending on cyber-security in 2022. In addition, worldwide governments have responded to the rising cyber threats with guidance to help organizations employ effective cyber-security practices.
Several recent technological advances have bolstered the tools at our disposal, increasing the likelihood that we will prevail over cyber assaults. The key technological advancements currently doing the most to elevate cybersecurity efforts include blockchain, cloud technology, IoT Security, AI, Machine Learning, Application security, etc.
Cybersecurity risks have the potential to inspire the creation of innovative countermeasures. However, while our understanding of cybersecurity risks is expanding, much work has to be done. We’re getting better at what we do because of tech advancements, but so are the bad guys. Clearly, cyber threats are leading to the evolution of technology on both sides.
An evolutionary perspective on privacy demonstrates the importance of designing privacy safeguards into digital systems from the ground up if we are to preserve individuals’ capacity to distinguish between public and private information in the modern era.
For example, policymakers stepped in to encourage technological remedies, such as seatbelts and later airbags, as the increasing speed of automobiles rendered drivers’ reaction times unsuitable instruments for averting accidents and collisions.
In other words, a concerted effort between technological and policy interventions is necessary to protect individual privacy on the World Wide Web.
Data analysis approaches that preserve anonymity can be made possible by differential privacy, privacy-enhancing technology like anonymous surfing and user-friendly encrypted email services, and intelligent privacy assistants that learn users’ preferences.
There is hope that these technologies can protect individuals’ privacy without undermining the modern world’s love of data collection and analysis. However, since industry actors’ motivations to exploit the data economy aren’t going away anytime soon, we anticipate the need for governmental actions that promote the creation and dissemination of such technology.