Pride and Privacy

This weekend is Pride in San Francisco, and as a straight ally, I’m excited for the opportunity for my family to participate in the parade with the San Francisco-based tech company that I work for. I’m excited to work at a company that openly supports the LGBTQ community and excited to model my ally-ship for my young children.

But, as a data privacy professional (I’m a privacy lawyer), Pride also reminds me of the importance of the right of privacy and the importance of organizations that handle personal information (aka PII) respecting the right of privacy.

Let’s remember what privacy is. I think to many lay people, privacy is just keeping something about yourself secret or confidential. But, privacy is defined by privacy professionals as the right to have some control over your personal information. Privacy is about agency. Privacy is about having agency over what information about yourself is shared, who you share it with, and how it gets used.

I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that the LGBTQ community, perhaps more than any other, has suffered experiences that drive home the importance of respecting the right of privacy and the evils that can result when that right is not respected. From the story of the tragic death of Alan Turing to the stories coming out of Chechnya today, the LGBTQ community knows that how certain personal information is shared, who it is shared with, and how it gets used can have life or death consequences.

So, this weekend, I’m reminded that one aspect of Pride means having the right to choose to be loud and proud or to sit quietly to the side. It means having the right to be “out” in the Pride parade on Sunday morning and “in” at grandma’s house at Sunday dinner. It means people should have agency over who they express their gender identity to or share their orientation with and when they share that information. And, they should have agency over how that information is used.

And, on Monday, when I go back into the office and I go back to the daily grind of reading data protection addenda, doing privacy impact assessments, and advising on data compliance policies, I will remind myself and my colleagues that privacy is not just a buzz word — its not just something that we “have” to do. It’s about respecting human beings and their right to agency in their lives.