privacy – not so third world problem?

Yes, developing nation like Nepal first needs food, shelter and clothing first. Then comes the health, education, and better society. Somewhere in the middle, what we need to balance are the three Ps  – privacy, piracy and plagiarism. I will write about “privacy” today. Remaining two will take some more time.

Privacy International 2007 privacy ranking map. Orange – Extensive surveillance societies. Red –  Endemic surveillance societies. Green – Consistently upholds human rights standards

privacy

what is privacy in Nepal?

Before anything, I would strongly suggest reader to know the variation in definition of privacy in Eastern vs. Western society.  Nepali culture as like many South Asian, has fair share of situations which might get misinterpreted as breach in privacy. We have pretty thin line in few too many situations where privacy in not so big a deal. However, there are limits, and we do have bigger issues, when privacy does get messed up. The lines of privacy when compared, are drawn in different places.

example – one usually does not own a private room in most of Nepal. the notion of your private space is probably at best only in bathrooms and toilets. Not many understand the luxury of  this a private space.

how private is Nepal?

Sure, In Article 22 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990, the right to privacy was addressed as a fundamental right for the first time in the constitutional history of Nepal. The right to information was also included in this Constitution. The right to privacy was retained in the 2007 Interim Constitution, which remains in force today. Article 28 provides:

Except in circumstances as provided by law, the privacy of the person, residence, property, document, statistics, correspondence, and character of anyone is inviolable

However, individual privacy is something else. Privacy has rock bottomed for majority Nepali, part in due to the cultural dogma.  Although there is constitutional protection for the right to privacy, no law or acts have been made to protect this fragile right. However, the right to privacy is addressed by some laws, such as the following:

  • Postal Act, 1962 (Section 47 and 58)
  • Telecommunication Act, 1962 (Section 23 (a), 24 and 27 (b))
  • The Chapter on Court Procedure (Section 172) of Muluki Ain

In September 2012 right to information activists launched a public interest litigation seeking a court order that the government promulgate an Act specifically protecting the right to privacy as guaranteed in the Interim Constitution. The writ petition referenced measures taken by police to access individuals’ text messages while investigating the murder of Supreme Court Justice Rana Bahadur Bam. The petitioners requested the Supreme Court direct the government to promulgate the Right to Secrecy Act to protect the private communications of individuals from government interference.1

There is no government authority to receive complaints regarding violations of privacy rights, although people may submit applications and reports concerning violations of their privacy rights to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). However, to date, not a single application/report/case has been brought to the NHRC regarding privacy rights violations.2

my (personal) privacy related problems

  • Public Transportations – These have the worse privacy records for me. I usually travel through the battery powered three wheeler (aka. Vikram Tempo) in Kathmandu. Whenever there come a time to send in a SMS, or call someone, there are at least two pairs of eyes watching me dial/type in my mobile device. Somehow, they think its there to watch. I try to avoid bus and micro bus rides for this same reason.
  • Sod Casting –  next to my worse list on breach of privacy. Not to be  prejudice here, but there certainly is that demography of Nepali population cohort here, who could really learn something more about privacy. I do not want to hear Bollywood songs, especially those from 90s, and English Pop culture – from Justin B, and gangs. I regret that very few listen to Kings of Leon – Queen – Daft Punk – Bob Dylan genres that I am comfortable with. For the record, Indian remixes of PSY – Gangnam style is abomination to creativity.
  • Walking a busy street – One is sure to get hit by too many hands and shoulders. For women, it gets worse. This is more a problem of not having personal space, but all purpose intended, I consider this to be a privacy breach as well. Privacy of walking safely, and not banging to every other person. I strongly believe that, one can walk in a huge crowd of hundreds or even thousands, with least possible number collisions.
  • The telephone call conundrum – Growing up adolescent life meant one landline per household in Nepal. A friend’s call to a landline in the late 90s and early 2000s was a double edge sword. You could never leave with that short cord, and the cordless phone were usually listened to.

“Who is? TA or T?”

  • If there was a call for me, the first question my mom would put – “Who is? TA or T?” Literally “Ta” meant short for K-ta, which is basically “a boy” and “T” meant short for K’T, meaning “a girl”. I kept things at minimum, usually didn’t pick up any call at all.

what is privacy?

Privacy can simply be defined as the right to be left alone. ‘It is a comprehensive right and it is the right most valued by a free people. It is a fundamental human right.  A society in which there was a total lack of privacy would be intolerable; but then again a society in which there was a total privacy would be no society at all’ (the is a balance needed).

Privacy is the right of people to make personal decisions regarding their own intimate matters, it is the right of people to lead their lives in a manner that is reasonably secluded from public scrutiny, and it is the right of people to be free from such things as unwarranted drug testing or electronic surveillance (from Answers.com http://www.answers.com/topic/privacy)

‘Privacy’ is a broad, abstract and ambiguous concept

UN Declaration of Human Rights.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights defined Privacy as this:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone had the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

what if there were no Privacy?

Without privacy life would be hell. It would mean that you would be highly vulnerable to the control of others, you would lose your freedom which may lead to inhibition and tentativeness and you may be less spontaneous and you would be more likely to be manipulated. Given below are four aspects of privacy that I think are important, in Nepal.

privacy I: the internet

Yes, because I am a tech enthusiast, I made sure this was written in the beginning. The Internet threatens privacy in a number of ways, partly because it is possible to record everything that you do on line (IP addresses remember?).The governments of developed nations and few developing countries regularly monitor electronic communication as do commercial companies such as Google, and Microsoft. Nepal Government may not have so much a control over its netizens, but since India has already initiated a tighter control; I won’t be surprised if Nepal did the same thing. In any manner, If there is communist government in Nepal, internet will be watched even more so ever, including this post (“read as a political satire, please don’t arrest me”)

Info Graph by – 1984 in 2013: Privacy and The Internet via HostGator

privacy II: medical?

Since August 2009, when the USA government regulated that any breach affecting more than 500 patients be publicly disclosed.3 Nothing sort of it is in Nepal, as far as my understanding goes. Medical privacy breach is rising in the world, and we in Nepal, have very little or no clue about this. As a student we are taught not to speak of our patient, and there is a tremendous effort put into making a Case Report (or any other Medical Journal article/s) anonymous.

My personal experience has given me the glimpse of complete lack of data privacy in most of the Nepali Health Setting. There is privacy screened from the public eye, but within the medical fraternity, be it a doctor, nurse or a paramedic; or within a hospital/clinic/health post setting there aren’t even rules or contingency plan in case of privacy breach.

Legally, Nepal has prominently recognized the confidentiality of medical records. But there are some major systemic loop holes.

privacy III:  for women?

Legally speaking, men and women in Nepal are equal. But there still remains a deep rooted caste and cultural divide. The existing hierarchies that does not let these two gender have equal footing. This is true for every aspect including the privacy related to the following three things.

Ask your self, if we need privacy for

  1. family planning,
  2. violence against women, and
  3. women empowerment.

The former two require privacy to be neglected for the benefit of a woman, while in latter case may require a stronger support. In any case, I definitely would love to read more before writing anything else. From what I think, I have already written absurdly in the last few sentences, better keep mum till I know more. In the mean time, I would like to share here a wonderful passage from Martha C. Nussbaum. (web link). A very intriguing article where the author talks about privacy being bad in few cases – which are elaborated in detail.

Despite its commitment to sex equality, Indian constitutional law increasingly relies on the concept of privacy in matters of sex and family. This concept, traditionally conservative and associated with “family values,” has long been criticized by feminists as a bad way of gaining rights for women. Feminists typically make four criticisms of the privacy right: the concept of privacy is unworkably murky; the privacy right protects male bad behavior; protecting important liberties under the rubric of privacy unfairly discriminates against those who perform the same acts in a space denominated “public”; and privacy is simply irrelevant to a number of important liberty interests that need explicit protection.

privacy IV: Organizations

Here are some of my suggestions on what should be guiding principals on privacy in Nepal. I do not know, if its already written somewhere in Nepali, but most here are compiled (and no original ideas). I am listing some that is in my mind.

  • Only collect personal information that is necessary for performance of functions.
  • Use and disclose of personal information only for the primary purpose. Use for other secondary purposes should have the consent of the person.
  • Organizations (or anything similar) must be open about how they handle personal information.
  • Individuals have a right to seek access to their personal information and have it corrected if it is inaccurate, incomplete or out-of-date.
  • Individual option of not identifying themselves when entering transactions with organizations (if its would be lawful and feasible) should be present.
  • Sensitive information must require consent when collected and higher levels of protection should be afforded. These includes information of – caste, ethnical group, political views, religious views, criminal record, professional association, etc.

conclusion

I read a a total of seven web articles and three papers, but this was not enough. I could write more about the Internet privacy breach and its threat, and probably could lay out some ground work on how to stay secure on one of my next post. I definitely  need to read more with privacy concerning the social aspect (focusing on women).  I am not, at the moment, interested on the medical privacy breach (despite being a doctor). May be some day.

references

  1. Newspaper Article – Secrecy right Act sought. web link.
  2. Web Article – Privacy International Report – on Nepal. web link.
  3. Journal Article – Roger Collier. Medical privacy breaches rising.  CMAJ. 2012 March 6; 184(4): E215–E216. doi:  10.1503/cmaj.109-4116. –  web link.
  4. Website – Privacy International

more reading (highly recommended)

  1. Web Article – by Seema Dhami – Balancing Individual Privacy with Press Freedom. Nepal Monitors. 2008. web link.
  2. Web Article – by Martha C. Nussbaum – Is privacy bad for Women? – Boston Review. 2000. web link.
  3. Book Read – by Martha C. Nussbaum –  Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (The Seeley Lectures). Amazon.com. haven’t read it myself but would love to if someone gave  it as a gift.

Tune in Next Wednesday for –

where did the cotton go? Bangladesh, China and Nepal

4 thoughts on “privacy – not so third world problem?

  1. Ekendra 10/06/2013 / 5:39 pm

    Looks like “Privacy” has been pushed much to be depicted as something that do bad to human rather than good, I believe Privacy is human choice (irrespective of online or offline world.) You can buy Privacy if you want, but it is not that Nepal doesn’t respect Privacy, it is an individualized need, not a countrywide – as already mentioned in early paragraphs that Nepal is a 3rd world country.

    Privacy I can be totally considered as biased, novice Internet users might be too scary to learn this – You need to know how to go to Kathmandu if you plan to travel from Pokhara, and you do freely ask people the way, letting them know that you are traveling to Kathmandu. Is your privacy breached? The issues of cookies & IPs are made to ease Internet use, made to customize your way of experiencing better Internet – and obviously they come with certain trade off, doesn’t mean they are hurting privacy.

    Privacy MEN (?) wish there was one, why one women? Third world countries talk about equal gender approach, but always give priority to women. That’s development in Nepal but not in the US.

    • Prashant Khatiwada 10/06/2013 / 9:42 pm

      “privacy is human choice” in Nepal? is It??
      I thought it was human right, more than a choice.
      If you choose to be private but you are not allowed to be in private.
      I have given some examples, which I think is a breach to my privacy rights which should be basic to living. Obviously, not all could/would be achievable, but I hope for a better tomorrow. Just because Nepal is a developing country does not mean we need to pry on everything others do.

      Online World also? I may be mistaken but the PRISM news is lately on the internet all over. My mother and father may not know the opts out and Ad blocker, and cookie cleaners, does that mean they choose to get followed and secretly watched upon? Do we have a detail survey on people who really do not care about privacy so that I may change my statement that most people are blind towards being private/public? You may also read want to read about this Gaurdian article – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

      Why not women?
      do men give birth? do get so often get physically assaulted? (read RAPE) do men get menstrual bleeding and get segregated for that? do men get groped in public, stared at? Can women walk shirtless?
      Give me as important and/or equal examples for men – then I shall write about privacy concerning men. This is not a talk about gender equality, its about where privacy is hurting women here in Nepal, or supporting it. Yes, men privacy is important, but not so much as compared to the questions I have raised.

      again, these may be my personal point of view and I may be wrong. On which point, I would like to know more and learn more. To be able to correct my perspective is always a welcome.

      • Ekendra 10/06/2013 / 10:07 pm

        Your point out might be globally correct but I adhere to my prospect for the time being!

      • Prashant Khatiwada 11/06/2013 / 6:14 am

        adhere to which of the three points? all three?

        so you say, there is no women violence and violence in Nepal?

        so you mean, the number of internet users, the demography that do not know the meaning of Cache? Cookies? or IP locator have forfeited their choice knowingly?

        or are you saying that, Nepal qualifies for a place where one must know everyone else’s biodata. Prying must be made legal, or even the fact that there is whatever little provision of privacy that there is in present constitution should be scrapped and altered?

        I am not talking about huge and radical changes. I am just saying that there is a need of education and awareness, which would bring about smaller changes, in due course of time.

        I am coining a problem here (whatever small it is) – which I think hasn’t been all talked about. Trying to analyse here of what it ought to be, and what it is? and what we can do? Privacy should not be choice, it should be a right. There will always something, that needs to be hidden, for any/all of us. hoina ra?

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