Privacy & Practice

Privacy. What does privacy mean? I came to know a lot about information that is considered as private but actually is public.

When you know someone’s name you can use Google to find information that is publicly known. But you can also find data about people such as addresses, phone numbers and names without really knowing them. In the context of my search and for promotional goals I contacted the staff of the University of Leiden to ask if they publish the names of their recent graduates. I got no for an answer because of the privacy law in order to protect the privacy of the students.

But then, one of the helpful guys referred to the database of Leiden University. And guess what? There you can see the titles of many theses, including names and sometimes even the addresses of the students! And it’s also possible to download theses as a PDF file. So much for the privacy! I immediately googled myself and indeed found the year of my graduation and at what University, the title of my thesis, the name of my supervisor and my own name. So what’s the difference? Is it allowed to publish names when it’s for science sake? What is the purpose then and what is exactly the meaning of the privacy law in this case?

Back in the days, when I was a teenager and you graduated from high school, they published all the names of the students in the paper to congratulate them with their diploma. Nobody talked about privacy. Now I think they want you to believe that your privacy is protected, but the contrary is the actual reality. Especially because of the internet and everything that is connected with it or works through it. Personal information is to find everywhere!

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