Course 2 Digital Footprint Privacy

Do you freely express yourself on the Internet?

If it's on the Internet, it isn't private.
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey via Compfight cc

While reading and understanding the article for this week (Don’t overestimate privacy of online information & Beware: the internet could own your future) my Grade 4 came in my mind which inquires into the Human Rights at the moment. In particular I was reminded of impressive pictures of William T. Ayton who painted a picture for each Human Right. (First time that I asked an artist whether I can use his pictures – Thanks for replying so quickly, Mr. Ayton! – Check out his website!)

Photo Credit: William T. Ayton via U.D.H.R.

Article 12 (U.D.H. R. – picture of Ayton):

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12.)


One interesting question for me is the following:

Do we just have to adapt and accept the fact that there seems to be less and less privacy online? 

The control over who has access to my pictures, to my information, to my location and so on seems not existing anymore. I try to understand the privacy setting f.e. of Facebook and and it gives me a good and kind of safe feeling but a rest of distrust is always there. I feel like that there isn’t the possibility to control my privacy online anymore. But in my opinion to just give up is too easy although I’m not sure whether I have a chance.
I found information about a Post-Privacy-Movement which believes and is convinced that we are living in a time without any privacy. Really?
On the other hand there seem to be a lot initiatives which try to protect privacy like Me & My Shadow campaign, like a German initiative against the change of the data retention laws (Stopp! die Vorratsdatenspeicherung – German/English), like the Global Network Initiative (GNI) and of course there are many technical inventions which try to protect privacy (f.e. TOR).

All that reading led me to another interesting question:

How is “The Right to Privacy” and “The right of Freedom of expression” related to each other?

Photo Credit: William T. Ayton via U.D.H.R.

Article 19 (U.D.H. R. – picture of Ayton):

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19)

Living in Germany luckily I haven’t experience the feeling that I can’t express freely my opinions. But it’s definitely a different story in other countries in the world like f.e. China and North Korea. And maybe I don’t have to go so far.

I found a quite new (2012) Global Survey on Internet Privacy and Freedom of Expression done by UNESCO. They say that the Internet lets us rethink about our understanding of privacy because compared to the pre-internet-time:

  • the Internet can collect way more different kind of personal information (DNA information, facial recognition, finger scanning, etc.).
  • the Internet can locate our personal information (unique IP addresses, RFID, bar codes, etc.).
  • the Internet and new technologies can analyse personal information and use them for different purpose.
  • there is way more commercial and government related use and analyses of our data.

Even though there might be a common definition of privacy it seems that it exist a very different understanding of the concept of privacy depending on country and also government. Therefor the relationship between both rights is very complex as well.

7 replies on “Do you freely express yourself on the Internet?”

It seems the only strategy possible is to share the least amount of personal information possible on the internet. Thanks for the links. I found it interesting that Privacy is considered a universal human right. It doesn’t seem possible to ever regulate what is going on through the internet.


“Do you freely express yourself on the Internet?”

No, I don’t. But I cannot say that I express myself freely out in public either. There are social codes that we live by and adhere to.

I am also wary of a “written record”. But I am careful when I write anything down. There are times when I really want to complain about people, but I always think of how that will make me look if/when someone finds it.


Heyy, I really want go express myself and I know what I want to say but I want someone who can guide me where should I post the stuff I want to say. I hope I will get a reply soon.
Thanks, Alizeh


Hi Alizeh,

why don’t you start writing a blog? Good luck! It’s easier than you think!


Verena,I agree with you that both Rights of ‘Freedom of Expression’ and ‘Privacy’ are being concerned here. Having lived in both Middle East and China, where many web sites are being censured and conversations peeked on/listened to, I have come to cherish and appreciate what the western world has given us. I also appreciate and realize how much the Internet has done for us- giving us limitless research information, and shrinking the world down to a ‘global village’. That being said, I am concerned about my personal privacy and how information about me is being collected. In my post the Dark Side of the Web,, I talk about some of these concerns. I hope that with time and more generations to come this gets better rather than worse. Sadly I also realized that people are still unaware of what goes on even when this is pointed out to them- since I started this course I have shared this information with a few friends and co-workers. , but often I get puzzled expressions or a response within the lines of ‘you are reading too much into this!’. If adults think that way – what about our students? I am also concerned about my privacy in terms of what personal information is collected and how it is being kept safe. In Canada recently we had a major privacy breach– I was contacted ( myself and thousands of other Canadians) by the Canadian Student Loans and was informed that all my personal information which was stored in their computers was leaked/lost. I am still trying to figure out the consequences of this , as this is fairly recent, and I am still unsure of who actually got their hands on all my information and how would that affect me in the long run. So yes, the potential risk of devastating consequences is definitely there.


Interesting post, Verena. Thanks for including those links. I also didn’t know that privacy is considered to be a universal human right. What an interesting concept to explore with students, especially when connected to a unit of inquiry. Ultimately, we control the amount of information we share online (if we “check in” at a place on Facebook or share pictures on Instagram), so we control our privacy. However, what concerns me more is when that control is out of our hands, as it is for children. When parents share photos of their children or other people’s children, that’s when I think privacy is being violated, and as you stated, a universal human right!


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