“Privacy of the person encompasses the right to keep body functions and body characteristics (such as genetic codes and biometrics) private.” (Friedewald, 2013)
Each of us is tied to his or hers body. We cannot do much about so far and it sounds pretty natural to talk about our body with indisputable certainty who is in the possession of ‘the body’. There is surely a logical connection that if it is ours we should be in charge of it and of the information linked to it such as above mentioned genetic code, biological traces, or body functions and body characteristics. If we imagine that someone else is deciding about our body or using an information about it without our consent it feels like being in some nightmarish movie. Try to imagine that your doctor is sharing all the medical information about you…
Oh, yes, medical records – we could start there with the question of how today’s technology influence the privacy of the person. Doctors are often using information systems for managing patient’s data. It is easy to process, to edit, handy for searching in the records. Moreover the aggregated datasets might be useful for medicine as the whole field, quoting the WHO: “Analysis of data in patient information systems can lead to new insight and understanding of health and disease, both chronic and acute.”
Apart from the potential to do good we need to consider that the medical records in the wrong hands could lead to unpleasant situations. For example someone could know a weak spot of a politician (such as that he was being treated because of alcoholism) or an employer might refuse an applicant cause he’s having some chronical illness (therefore not being able to work all the time). It is clear that the more the data can reveal the more they should be protected. One day the insurance company might ask you to do the genetic tests and charge more if you have higher risks of some illnesses that are expensive to cure. I hope that it won’t happen as we cannot choose our genetic code and that it would be really unfair, but the technologies are here waiting to be used.
In the particular example of medical records I can clearly see the benefits of the data collection, but I only wished to stress the importance of being cautious. The ideas about potential threats help us to mitigate the risks. This blog post was again only a short comment touching the privacy of the person, it is good to remind ourselves of our bodies and of what should we protect.
- Finn, R. L., Wright, D., & Friedewald, M. (2013). Seven types of privacy. In European data protection: coming of age (pp. 3-32). Springer Netherlands.