Part II of a blog series about privacy, and how we can raise awareness through a universal privacy label.

After diving into why privacy today is problematic in our previous post, this article explores what privacy is, and how we rank it, in our mission to better inform people about data collection and privacy for our research program ‘Demystifying the Smart City’. We’ll be exploring our research on:


The seemingly simple term “privacy” is as deceitful as our perception of having it in today’s world.

Merriam-Webster defines privacy as “the quality or state of being apart from company or observation.” It’s a straightforward definition, but considering that it’s from the 15th century, in the past 500+ years since, times have certainly changed.

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Within the academic realm, privacy is an extremely disputed term with countless ongoing debates concerning an accurate breakdown of the term.

The Privacy Debate

Especially since the global spread and proliferation of the internet, privacy debates have only become more heated. An overwhelming amount of unclear overlaps has resulted as the types of personal information and methods of capturing it have exponentially expanded.

Despite countless attempts to understand the term, there’s still not a widely recognized explanation, let alone an acceptable set of practices when it comes to ethically handling personal information.

Model “New phase in the digital society” by Rathenau Instituut depicts the types of personal information which privacy pertains to in the 21st century.

Model “New phase in the digital society” by Rathenau Instituut depicts the types of personal information which privacy pertains to in the 21st century.